The title of this film translates “and your mother too” which sounds like an insult in English, and that’s not far off in the context of the film, though not exactly correct. It does capture the chaotic spirit of this rite of passage tale in a Mexican road movie full of sex and angst and the jumbled up beauty of the desert landscape and people.
The story opens with two Mexico City teens: Tenoch the son of a diplomat, and Julio, who is from a blue collar family. Even though this point is made, their class distinctions make little difference in their comfortable adolescent friendship. After graduation, they find themselves suddenly unencumbered with their pesky girlfriends, who have gone off on a trip to Italy. Their boring summer routine is interrupted when they are compelled by Tenoch’s mother to attend a wedding. The two amuse themselves by chatting up Luisa, the beautiful wife of Tenoch’s cousin Jano. In a moment of snickering machismo, they make up a story about a tropical beach paradise that only they know the location of called “Heaven’s Mouth” and invite Luisa to join them on a trip there. The next day, when Luisa finds herself troubled and in need of a change of scenery, she calls Tenoch and asks him if the invitation was serious and a road trip is born.
It’s a little like a Telenovela but somewhere along the way the barely existent plot sloughs off as the bond of friendship, humor, and sexual tension among the three solidifies and they forget the point of the trip right along with us… and it’s very pleasant… like being on vacation and actually realizing a moment when you forget that this it’s not your life, but rather a contrived, temporary state.
But boys who are not yet men will be boys, and soon enough the euphoric bubble bursts in a series of revelations and adventures that leave none of the three unchanged.
And, um, there’s sex and nudity. That Tenoch and Julio are eager cocksmen is established early on. Quite a bit of all-angles nudity is featured as well, male and female. However, it’s handled unselfconsciously, with playful enthusiasm and neither the characters nor the filmmaker seem to think it’s a big deal. It’s clear that they like sex and are interested in thinking about it, talking about it, and doing it. Watching these romps, you can’t help feeling they are healthy and wholesome. It’s a nice change of pace from the double standard in American films that moralize by showing in graphic detail whatever it is you’re supposed to feel bad about seeing.
Both Luna and Bernal acquit themselves well as Julio and Tenoch while Maribel Verdú throws off sparks as Luisa, and she is all the more sensual and accessible for not seeming too polished. One minor, but irritating flaw is that preceding the voice over narration each time it occurs, the background track drops out suddenly, as if something had gone wrong. This is jarring and unnecessary. The general production values are poor, the camera work is often forced and goofy, but those elements all work in this film to ground the story in honest realism and the charm of taking the gritty ride.
The story is set in real world Mexico, not a cleaned-up movie world simulacrum. It’s a world where beautiful women wake up from a nap with drool on their faces, where young men will pop a boner for absolutely no reason whatsoever (damn them), where you can go too far in your explorations of life, where people can be changed permanently by what they’ve seen and done,
and where in the end there’s no clean resolution.
There is a smattering of bawdy adolescent sex humor and a couple of fart jokes. Despite the tired road trip premise (please tell me someone else remembers another Mexican road movie called “Going All the Way” that featured a young Tom Cruise?) Alphonso Cuarón pulls it off, showing noisy colorful rural life in Mexico over a cracked vinyl dashboard. Surprisingly,
it’s very familiar and comfortable. When Luisa spots a stuffed mouse with her name embroidered on it and chats with the old woman selling trinkets at a roadside stand, there’s a hominess that strikes a chord. The film is very sweet in this way, slowing to let us look for a moment at people along the way to the life that lies ahead.