Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Sex and Death: What Could Possibly go Wrong?

Y tu mamá también (Alfonso Cuarón, 2001)

Watched: 22nd May

Where: TV

I first saw Y tu mamá también around seven or eight years ago, yet somehow my feelings towards it have remained unchanged. I still feel both sad and uplifted by the ending, the different journeys that life takes and how quickly they come to an end, the fragility of the relationships between the participants of life's journeys. There are a few journeys in Y tu mamá también, and many opposites sitting alongside. At the centre of the film you have rich vs poor, urban vs rural, young vs old and life vs death amongst others. The journeys that our characters take and the relationships they build help break down the barriers between the oppositions but also bring up new ones in their places.

The oppositions in the film begin with the opening sex scenes where young lovers make each other promise their fidelity as our young ladies are about to embark on a trip to Italy, leaving their men behind in Mexico. Like the many vows we see in the film this one proves to be empty. The boys Tenoch (Diego Luna) and Julio (Gael García Bernal) tell Luisa (Maribel Verdú) on their drive along the coast of their "brotherly vows not to be unfaithful and sleep with each other's women" but by the end of the film both admit (though somehow you feel like at least one of them is lying) to having slept with each other's girlfriends, and they both end up sleeping with Luisa too. Jano and Luisa are married, Jano (Juan Carlos Remolina) phones his wife whilst drunk admitting an affair, thus prompting her final journey with the boys and her sexual experiences with them.

The physical journey that our characters take from urban to rural (read also rich to poor) is also central to the relationships in the film, especially when contrasted with the social backgrounds of our characters. Tenoch is wealthy, was born wealthy and will probably die wealthy. Julio is very much middle class and not as wealthy as Tenoch continually reminds him (mostly in jest and also when they fight). Luisa had a tough upbringing in Spain looking after her sick grandmother while her husband is an author and academic who gets invited to a wedding where the president is a guest of honour. Although there are comments in the film about the class struggle it does not judge the characters themselves in terms of their class but we do see some of the consequences of the power the "haves" have over the "have nots". The change in politics the film mentions does not have disastrous consequences for Tenoch's wealthy father, but the building of a hotel whilst creating many jobs takes away the livelihood and family profession of Chuy who is no longer able to fish and take tourists on private boat tours. Progress comes at a price it seems, for some the price is easier to pay than others, but the innocence and simplicity of friendship and family are lost forever.

Another opposition that is set up is birth, this is in the form of a new set of sexual relationships, a new marriage, a trip to a secret beach, trying things for the first time, an escape from death, moving from school to University and the inevitable progression to adult life that follows. This is inevitably followed by death in the final scene of the film. Julio and Tenoch meet again and have coffee together. Both have now grown apart and have long since split up from their girlfriends following their road trip with Luisa. Tenoch tells Julio that Luisa died of cancer shortly after the end of their trip. Luisa wanted to spend the last moments of her life with no regrets, sharing her experiences and regaining a little of the youth she lost caring for her sick grandmother. For Luisa the trip was a chance to be reborn and feel freedom for one last time (or perhaps for the first time). For Tenoch and Julio it was the chance to be adults for the first time and children for the last time. The end of their friendship signified their coming of age. When we see them in the coffee shop they are dressed more smartly, more conservatively, they are not the same people we saw mocking the guests at the wedding party, their freedom and youth seem to have vanished. Their shared memories seem distant and blurry.

I love this film for the innocence of its characters, their fun adventure versus the sullen reality of the factual documentary style voice over narration. I like the childhood innocence and the fragility of young friendships. I understand how everything feels like it will last forever but tomorrow it is gone and the day after that but a distant memory. I feel that sometimes the big things don't matter but it's the little ones that count. Then I realise that these little things are big things after all; a passing remark, calling or not calling, participating or sitting out. Everything adds up, sex and death, the beginning and the end. What could possibly go wrong in between?

No comments: