Reconstructivist Art: Y Tu Mama Tambien

In honor of his new movie Roma, please enjoy this repost about the film that first introduced me to my favorite director, Alfonso Cuarón’s Y Tu Mama Tambien (2001) as an example of Reconstructivist Art

Acclaimed Mexican film director Alfonso Cuarón (later to win a Best Director Oscar for Gravity) returned to his native country in order to create his first major hit, a bawdy teen buddy-comedy/road-trip-movie with a surprisingly deep subtext. Y Tu Mama broke records in Mexico and elsewhere around the world, despite its both racy and subversive material.

(1) Nod to Artifice: The realism of the movie is broken periodically by weighty voice-overs which break into both the plot and the soundtrack, typically to bring the viewer information that is wholly outside the plot, but which grounds the characters in a larger socioeconomic context.

(2) Classic Structure: The movie combines three shop-worn genres in one: The buddy-comedy, the road-trip movie and the sex-farce, taking on structural elements from each.

(3) Transcontextual and Iconic Elements: The movie borrows some familiar iconic props from the movies it deconstructs, such as the “Battered Car” that barely runs, the seductive “Older Woman” and the “Fantasy Beach” that magically appears in reality. In addition to these, there is also a second, more disturbing and less familiar set of icons that barely impinge on the consciousness of the characters, such as “Intersection Where Someone Was Run Over”, the “Village Wedding”, and the “Fisherman Who Will Be Forced Into the Tourist Industry.”

(4) Moments of Genuine Emotion or Significance: What gives the movie its depth is how its seeming stereotypes reveal a core of messy reality that cannot be denied or ignored. The seductive older woman’s secrets are revealed as decidedly unsexy –teenage heartbreak, a chronically unfaithful husband and a fatal disease. The hidden homoeroticism that animates every buddy movie is here laid bare rather than played for laughs, forcing the two friends at the center of the movie into an uncomfortable reevaluation of their relationship with each other. Even the paradise-like beach turns out to have a dark fate of its own, as a sacrifice to economic exploitation. At the end, the fizzy joy of the movie’s early scenes gives way to hard emotional realities: People die, and friendships end.

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