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Y TU MAMA TAMBIEN
Blu-ray Edition

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Maribel Verdu, Gael Garcia Bernal, Diego Luna
Director: Alfonso Cuaron
Audio: DTS HD 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio: Criterion
Features: See Review
Length: 106 Minutes
Release Date: August 19, 2014

Life is like the foam of the sea. You must dive into it.”

Film ***1/2

Alfonso Cuaron has become one of the boldest visionary filmmakers working in the medium today. His unique approach to both the post-apocalyptic movie (Children of Men) and the outer space adventure (Gravity) have beautifully illustrated his ability to take a specific genre and make it feel larger than life. He is without question a filmmaker whose future works I will always look forward to.

The build up to this point in Cuaron’s career started in 2001 with the release of Y tu mama tambien, a small scale but very intimate character study set against the backdrop of a Mexican road trip. Prior to this film, Cuaron had actually endured the trials and tribulations of being a director for hire in Hollywood during the 90s, including films such as A Little Princess and a modern updating of Great Expectations, which I rather enjoyed. But he had it with the process and made a decision to return to his homeland to make something much more personal.

Like the genres of film he would later tackle, Cuaron takes both the teen sex comedy and road trip movie and flips them on their heads and creating something much more unique as a result. Written by the director and his brother, Carlos, the story tells of two teenage friends, Julio (Gael Garcia Bernal) and Tenoch (Diego Luna), who embark on a road trip to a secluded beach. The twist in the situation is that there is a third party in the mix, a woman named Luisa (Maribel Verdu), who has just been devastated after learning her newly wedded husband has cheated on her.

Eventually, a heated love triangle ensues, which is very much Luisa’s way of getting revenge. However, her intentions go much further than just that. As the story progresses, we pay witness to her leading the two boys into a world that they never counted on experiencing when they first hit the road.

It sounds like a simple enough premise, but again we’re in the hands of a master filmmaker who wants to take the audience on a journey as well. And through his uncompromising directing, in addition to the invigorating camera work from the gifted cinematographer (and longtime Cuaron collaborator) Emmanuel Lubezki, we are supplied a level of authenticity in the setting that is beyond potent. We feel like a fly on the wall looking in on these three characters’ experiences.

Another strong asset to the film is the incorporating of Mexico’s political climate of the time. What’s even greater is that it doesn’t overshadow the characters in focus, as Cuaron allows its inclusion to add the perfect amount of realism. The film is also boasted by periodic voice over narration from an individual un-associated with the events, but at the same time possesses a certain level of omnipotence, offering random information about the character’s backgrounds, and his revealing of numerous facts during the film’s closing segments truly help in leaving the desired impact.

Cuaron’s film pushes taboo’s but never in an exploitative manner, but rather honest and intimate. Y tu mama tambien is, like so much of the director’s work, a viewing experience that delivers quite an impact. It’s pure proof that bold filmmaking can enhance the simplest stories to absolute great effect!

Video ****

I had been wanting to see this film for quite some time, and I couldn’t be happier that my first viewing came courtesy of yet another remarkable Blu-ray handling from Criterion! This 4k transfer of the film, supervised by cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, is full of endless visual splendor that will make you feel as though you have been literally transported to Mexico. Cuaron’s filmmaking already does a sweeping job of placing you right in the center of events, and this astounding presentation enhances that feeling even further!

Audio ***1/2

The 5.1 DTS HD mix is absolutely superb from beginning to end. The authentic capturing of the Mexico allows for frequent burst of ambient sounds to be wonderfully rendered and, once again, making you feel like you’re right there with the characters. Various music tracks are extremely well captured, and dialogue delivery is a hundred percent clear and balances wonderfully with the other areas.

Features ****

Here’s hoping Criterion and Alfonso Cuaron reunite in the future, because this Blu-ray release boasts some spectacular extras. Even with the absence of a commentary track, we get a package nothing short of remarkable. Once again, we have a Dual Format release including one Blu-ray disc and two DVDs.

To start with, we have two new documentaries on the making of the film, adding up to forty minutes in length, featuring interviews recorded both at the time of production and in 2014, with Alfonso Cuaron, co-writer Carlos Cuaron, cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki in addition to actors Gael Garcia Bernal, Diego Luna, and Maribel Verdu. We also get a new interview with philosopher Slavoj Zizek about the film's social and political aspects, as well as a twenty minute documentary from 2001, Deleted Scenes, a short film by Carlos Cuaron from 2002 titled “You Owe Me One", a Trailer and TV Spot.

Rounding out the package is a terrific booklet featuring an essay by critic Charles Taylor and reprinted character biographies by Alfonso and Carlos Cuaron.

Summary:

Y tu mama tambien is a potent and beautifully filmed journey that only a filmmaker at the caliber of Alfonso Cuaron could deliver. It serves as the beginning of a turning point for the director, and would lead to even greater cinematic works. The new Dual Format release from Criterion is yet another fantastic package from the best Blu-ray makers in the biz!

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