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Y Tu Mamá También: The Criterion Collection Blu-ray + DVD Dual-Format Edition Review

Y Tu Mamá También movie poster Y Tu Mamá También

US Theatrical Release: March 15, 2002 (Mexican Theatrical Release: June 8, 2001) / Running Time: 106 Minutes / Rating: Unrated (US Theatrical Cut: R)

Director: Alfonso Cuarón / Writers: Carlos Cuarón, Alfonso Cuarón

Cast: Maribel Verdú (Luisa Cortés), Gael García Bernal (Julio Zapata), Diego Luna (Tenoch Iturbide), Daniel Giménez Cacho (Narrator), Ana López Mercado (Ana Morelos), Arturo Ríos (Esteban Morelos), María Aura (Cecilia Huerta), Nathan Grinberg (Manuel Huerta), Verónica Langer (María Eugenia Calles de Huerta), Giselle Audirac (Nicole Bazaine), Andrés Almeida (Diego "Saba" Madero), Diana Bracho (Silvia Allende de Iturbide), Emilio Echevarría (Miguel Iturbide), Marta Aura (Enriqueta "Queta" Allende), Juan Carlos Remolina (Alejandro "Jano" Montes de Oca), Liboria Rodríguez (Leodegaria "Leo" Victoria), Silverio Palacios (Jesús "Chuy" Carranza), Mayra Serbulo (Mabel Juárez de Carranza), Andrea López (Lucero Carranza), Amaury Sérbulo (Christian Carranza), Jorge Vergara (President - uncredited)

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Alfonso Cuarón, the reigning winner of the Best Director Oscar, may be best known for three big English language films: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Children of Men, and Gravity, the space blockbuster that won him the aforementioned Academy Award and a second for editing.
But as you may be able to guess from his name or his accent, Cuarón is from Mexico. That is where he began his filmmaking career and where he made his name.

Working his way up from assistant director Cuarón had helmed a handful of late '80s, early '90s episodes of "La Hora Marcada", a Mexican horror and sci-fi anthology TV series comparable to "The Twilight Zone." Cuarón then made his feature directing debut on Sólo Con Tu Pareja, a 1992 sex comedy called Love in the Time of Hysteria in the United States, where it played a single festival. Following this debut, Cuarón came to the States, where he directed a 1993 episode of the Showtime anthology series "Fallen Angels" and the feature films A Little Princess (1995) and Great Expectations (1998), adapted from the classic English novels by, respectively, Frances Hodgson Burnett and Charles Dickens. Princess was well-reviewed, Expectations was not and neither made much of an impact commercially.

Then, Cuarón returned to Mexico. Perhaps he might have stayed there had his next film not been so widely celebrated. Instead, Y Tu Mamá También (literally And Your Mother Too in English, though not frequently translated) led the world to declare him an important, talented, and in demand filmmaker.

Two teenagers (Diego Luna and Gael García Bernal) and a woman (Maribel Verdú) take a road trip to the beach in Alfonso Cuarón's "Y Tu Mamá También."

También opens with back to back graphic sex scenes, as two recent high school graduates -- best friends Tenoch (Diego Luna) and Julio (Gael García Bernal) -- bid farewell to their girlfriends, who are spending the summer in Italy. Tenoch and Julio do not have jobs or plans, immediate or otherwise. They are content to pass their days smoking pot, farting, talking about the opposite sex, racing each other in the swimming pool, and masturbating simultaneously on separate diving boards.

At a big wedding attended by Mexico's president, these two randy teenagers meet and hit on Luisa Cortés (Maribel Verdú), the Spanish wife of Tenoch's cousin. They tell her about their plans to hit a beach called Heaven's Mouth and extend an invitation to her. The beach doesn't really exist nor does their plan to visit it, so the boys are taken by surprise when Luisa calls Tenoch to accept. They quickly figure a way to make this spontaneous road trip work: Julio gets his activist sister to let him have their shared, aging station wagon for a few days, another friend gives them hazy directions to a scenic beach, and the two amigos stock up on snacks, beer, and condoms.

Luisa, an attractive dental technician in her thirties, has recently heard her husband confess an indiscretion to her. For her, the trip is a way to initiate a painful break-up she hides from her younger traveling companions. The three of them become well-acquainted soon, when Luisa sleeps with Tenoch and, not long after, Julio. This development that each boy desired but neither expected creates some tension between the two friends. That tension only grows when it is revealed that both have previously violated one of the tenets of their Charolastra (a self-appointed name they translate as "Astral Cowboys") manifesto by sleeping with each other's girlfriend.

Luisa (Maribel Verdú) and Julio (Gael García Bernal) get intimate in the back seat of the old station wagon. Luisa (Maribel Verdú) dances directly over to us after picking B-13 on the jukebox.

There is obvious craft on display here. Cuarón relies on omniscient voiceover narration (by Daniel Giménez Cacho), which reveals characters' secrets, pasts, and even futures at moments appropriate to the story. Though the opening scenes of full-frontal intimacy are disarming, most of the rest of the movie is remarkably down to earth and accessible.
Little morsels of Mexican culture emerge, as when the party is stopped by villagers requesting donations to their young queen, who is being hoisted on a chair just a few feet away.

The film, which Cuarón wrote with his younger brother Carlos, is not intended to be a portrait of typical Mexican adolescence, but a study of two immature young men whose friendship defies categorization and boundaries. While there is much to think about regarding Tenoch and Julio, including the possibility of some latent homosexual attraction, there isn't much to like about either of them or even their wiser, older companion, whose judgment is easily questioned. The lack of sympathetic personalities was evidently not an issue for critics, most of whom raved over the film, presumably moved by the ending that gives otherwise lacking meaning to the rest.

Nor did it seem to deter recognition from awards organizations. While Mexico fruitlessly submitted Perfume De Violetas for the Foreign Language Film Oscar over También to the disappointment of Cuarón and producer Jorge Vergara (who snubbed Mexico's Ariel Awards in response), Cuarón's film later received a Best Original Screenplay nomination at the 2003 ceremony (which it lost to Pedro Almodóvar's Spanish drama Talk to Her). Both before and after its North American release (which saw it earn $14 million in limited release, a command performance IFC has since only topped with My Big Fat Greek Wedding and the now playing Boyhood), También won or competed for a slew of additional Foreign Language honors, from a Golden Globes loss to wins at the Independent Spirit Awards and the awards of the Online Film Critics Society, an organization to which I now belong.

Y Tu Mamá También unquestionably benefitted the careers of those who made it. It would single-handedly lead to Cuarón getting hired to direct the third Harry Potter movie, a taut, time-traveling adventure many (myself included) still consider one of the highlights of the long-running series. Even if commercial success eluded him for the next nine years, the director hasn't looked back, and the much-decorated Gravity has cemented his reputation as a visionary, even if it was heralded more for its technical achievements than its dramatics or storytelling. Luna and García Bernal are two of Mexico's most visible exports and even if you confuse them for one another or know them by appearance rather than name, you are sure to have encountered them in films like The Motorcycle Diaries, Milk, Elysium, and No. (If, like me, you are more familiar with them from recent work, you will find it striking how young these two actors, then barely in their twenties, look here.)

Cuarón's first Mexican film, Sólo Con Tu Pareja, was admitted into The Criterion Collection back in late 2006. Y Tu Mamá También recently joined the ranks, claiming spine #723 in a 2-disc DVD and the one Blu-ray, two DVD Dual-Format Edition reviewed here. Criterion presents the film exclusively in its unrated original cut, which is more explicit and about five minutes longer than the R-rated version shown in US theaters, but presumably identical to the Unrated Version MGM brought to DVD.

Y Tu Mamá También: The Criterion Collection Blu-ray + DVD Dual Format Edition cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray & DVD Details

1.85:1 Widescreen (DVD Anamorphic)
Blu-ray: 5.1 DTS-HD MA (Spanish); DVD: Dolby Digital 5.1 (Spanish)
Subtitles: English
Not Closed Captioned; Spanish Extras Subtitled in English
Release Date: August 19, 2014
Suggested Retail Price: $39.95
Three single-sided, dual-layered discs (1 BD-50 and 2 DVD-9s)
Digipak in Cardboard Slipcover
Also available as Criterion Collection 2-Disc DVD ($29.95 SRP) and on Instant Video
Previously released by MGM as Unrated DVD and R-Rated DVD (October 22, 2002)

VIDEO and AUDIO

If not for Diego Luna and Gael García Bernal looking significantly older now than they do here, you might be able to mistake Y Tu Mamá También for a brand new film. That's because this 13-year-old drama looks terrific on Blu-ray. The 1.85:1 presentation shows off an incredibly sharp, clean, and well-defined element with nary an imperfection. Criterion has done the spectacular with far older and more obscure films, so perhaps this restoration isn't a revelation. Still, it is a delight we can safely assumes bests whatever MGM might have done with the film.

The 5.1 DTS-HD master audio soundtrack also delights. The sound cuts out a moment before and after the narration flows, producing a striking effect that kind of conveys the something extra that voiceover is meant to supply. The English subtitles are clean, grammatically sound, and perfectly timed to the Spanish dialogue.

Alfonso Cuarón sports longer and darker hair in his 2001 interview. A 34-year-old Diego Luna reflects on "Y Tu Mamá También" in a 2014 interview from "Now." Maribel Verdú entertains Alfonso Cuarón and other crew members with the story of her baptismal pranking in "Behind the Scenes."

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

The extras, the same on each format (though all are encoded in HD on Blu-ray, regardless of source limitations), begin with a pair of complementary featurettes. "Then: Reflections on Y Tu Mamá También" (10:51) collects 2001 interviews with director/co-writer/co-editor Alfonso Cuarón, co-writer Carlos Cuarón, Maribel Verdú, Gael García Bernal,
Diego Luna, and cinematographer Emmanuel "Chivo" Lubezki. Their remarks, in Spanish save for some English from the Cuaróns, shed some light on casting and production and are bolstered by behind-the-scenes footage.

The follow-up documentary "Now: Reflections on Y Tu Mamá También" (40:53) gathers new 2014 interviews with both Cuaróns, García Bernal, Luna, and Verdú. All but Verdú speak in English. There are many new disclosures here, including the source of "Charolastra", the reasoning for character names, the foreign films that inspired them, the casting process, the different dialects featured, and making the sex scenes less awkward.

"Behind the Scenes of Y Tu Mamá También" (22:35) is a 2001 making-of featurette that's full of bleeped profanity and blurred imagery. Light-hearted narration from Daniel Giménez Cacho (the film's omniscient narrator) enlivens plentiful looks at production. While there is some work involved in closing roads and wiping a beach of footprints, there's also fun to be had, such as the "baptisms" given to a couple of newbies, actress Maribel Verdú (pranked at sea) and producer Jorge Vergara (pushed into a pool).

In this deleted scene, Julio (Gael García Bernal) and his girlfriend Cecilia (María Aura) get frisky in the back seat without the parents in the front noticing. Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek explains his love for "Y Tu Mamá También."

Three deleted scenes (3:45) follow. They find Julio getting a stealth backseat handjob from his girlfriend in a car ride with parents, more of our central trio passing the time in the car, and a man whistling.

"Slavoj Žižek on Y Tu Mamá También" (9:01) lets the Slovenian philosopher sing the film's praises. He comments on the efficient out-of-focus politics, those moments of silence surrounding the narration, and what the film says about maturity. He also compares the film to the joke about a tangentially titled painting called Lenin in Warsaw. Žižek's thick accent makes him a little difficult to understand, but his thoughts on the film are sufficiently provocative.

Two pieces of IFC's US marketing for the film are preserved: a TV spot (0:30) and tagline-spouting theatrical trailer (2:24). Both make prominent use of music, specifically the Eagle Eye Cherry cover of The Bee Gees' "To Love Somebody" briefly heard in the film. Based on the strong domestic returns, I guess we'd have to call these ads effective.

Father (Fernando Becerril) and daughter (Flor Eduarda Gurrola) keep their sex lives secret from one another in Carlos Cuarón's 2002 short "Me La Debes" ("You Owe Me One"). The 1983 LeBaron named Betsabé hits the open road on the Y Tu Mamá También Blu-ray's top menu.

Last and possibly least is Me La Debes (You Owe Me One) (12:16), Carlos Cuarón's 2002 short film in which a teenage girl and her parents try keeping their overlapping sexual relationships secret from the others on one busy night.
It's off-putting.

The DVD offers all the extras the Blu-ray does, though it places all but the trailer and TV spot on a separate disc from the film.

The main menu plays clips with sounds from different parts, moving from one location and song snippet to another. Of course, Criterion authors the Blu-ray to support bookmarks and to allow you to resume playback wherever you left off.

Criterion breaks from their usual clear keepcases to treat this to a Digipak, which holds the three discs among appealing illustrations and slides sideways into a slipcover with different artwork. Held loosely in there is a booklet that by the label's standards is epic. This 76-page softcover companion includes all the usual information (chapter list, credits list, disc information). It also contains "Dirty Happy Things", an enjoyable 9-page essay by film critic and professor Charles Taylor which uncovers some hidden value in the film and compares it to the director's seemingly distant other films and to Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer.

Rounding out the booklet are English translations of Carlos and Alfonso Cuarón's detailed character biographies, first published in 2001. It's staggering how much thought these brothers have devoted to Julio, Tenoch, Luisa, and Betsabé (the 1983 LeBaron station wagon that transports the party), describing everything from the circumstances of their births to their parents' professional histories to shared experiences from different perspectives. I can't guarantee you'll find these long reads rewarding, but if you appreciate the film, you very well might.

Tenoch (Diego Luna) and Julio (Gael García Bernal) get coffees together in the solemn meeting with which the film ends.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

There's evident artistry on display in Y Tu Mamá También, but that wasn't enough for me to like a film populated with unlikable characters. Still, I'm grateful this has enabled Alfonso Cuarón to flourish with bigger, more exciting fare like Prisoner of Azkaban and Gravity.

With a flawless feature presentation, a good assembly of substantial extras, and that insightful booklet, Criterion's combo pack is sure to delight those who admire this film more than I do.

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Related Reviews:
Directed by Alfonso Cuarón: GravityHarry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Gael García Bernal & Diego Luna: Casa De Mi Padre | Maribel Verdú: Tetro
Gael García Bernal: Blindness | Diego Luna: The TerminalElysium
Millennial Criterions: The Royal TenenbaumsTrafficGeorge Washington
Foreign Film Criterions: The Great BeautyInsomniaBabette's Feast

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Reviewed August 29, 2014.



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