Cinema Signal:

. "Y Tu Mama Tambien"

With themes of sex, seduction, eroticism, divorce, infidelity and homosexuality, one might wonder how writer-director Alfonso Cuaron ("A Little Princess", "Great Expectations") pulled off a low-budget Spanish language film that has engendered so much interest and praise. Well, it may be because it's a lively sexual adventure with unknown but ideally cast newcomers to American audiences done in a style that can be described as hormonally frisky.

Two 17-year old pals, Julio (Gael Garcia Bernal) and Tenoch (Diego Luna) are destined by their girlfriends to spend the summer as bachelors on the prowl. Which doesn't mean they'll be without the sex they've become so accustomed to since there's very little fidelity running through their respective bloodstreams.

For example, very little time goes by before they meet Luisa (Maribel Verdu), the 28-year old wife of Tenoch's cousin. In a pleasant bit of teenage party flirtation, they mention their summer intentions of going to their favorite beach (a fabrication) and casually invite her to come along. As a married woman, especially one married to a cousin, she does the expected and laughs them out of their fantasy.

But, in a bit of illogical and contrived story development, Luisa's husband calls her one night and tells her he's been unfaithful. After a bit of emotional tempest tossing, she calls Diego and accepts the invitation to go to the beach. This adventure, between an older married woman and two adolescent males is the major thread of the story and it encompasses all the aforementioned experiences, in addition to a few other lapses of logic for the sake of a meaningful ending.

The serious buzz around this picture would suggest that a number of reviewers were taken in by a rather contrived poignancy. That aside, however, the film works on a simpler level and one wishes the writer-director might have trusted it more without taking the leaps into areas not supported by the nature of the characters.

There is much charm here, an appropriate level of energy for a teen lust movie and the good pacing of an on-the-road adventure yarn. It isn't for anyone who might be squeamish about sex because the frames of the movie are saturated with it, in a large number of manifestations, starting with a good dose of flirtatious foreplay.

This is not a coming of age picture. These boys have passed that stage. The only thing that can be said about their maturation is that they get to do it with an older woman. Its outstanding virtue is not poignancy because that comes at the price of realism, but, rather, its drive, its energy and certainly its comedy at such a low production cost. Cuaron's return to his Mexican roots after ten years in Hollywood would seem to demonstrate that entertainment is not a matter of size (of the budget).

Maribel Verdu nicely fulfills her role as the kittenish seductress physically and emotionally. Panting after her would not be confined to young boys. Emmanuel Lubezki's camerawork is resourceful and full of the textures of the Mexican landscape and its underlit interiors. It is compellingly appropriate to the subject matter.

As for its title, someone else will have to explain its relevance to the story.

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                                      ~~  Jules Brenner  

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Maribel Verdu tenderizes a complicit Diego Luna

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