This was the film in which I discovered the genius that is Mexican director Alfonso Cuaron (Children of Men, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban). He is a rare talent. Though this is a fairly low-budget production in comparison to his later works I cannot imagine someone watching this film and not enjoying it. Though on the surface it seems merely like a soft-porn (featuring both male and female nudity) road trip it is actually an insightful film that addresses such issues as lost innocence, the price we pay for our actions and an insight into the people of Mexico (economically and politically).
Tenoch (Diego Luna – Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights, Before Night Falls) and Julio (Gael Garcia Bernal – Motorcycle Diaries, Babel) have just finished high school and their girlfriends are both leaving on a trip to Europe, which is not bringing any sense of comfort to the two young men. The two young men start a summer of discussions of sex, drinking and doing drugs.
While at a wedding they meet a married attractive older woman named Luisa (Maribel Verdu – Pan’s Labyrinth, Belle Epoque). They want her to come with them to a place called Heaven’s Mouth. At first Luisa declines, but then some things happen which cause her to change her mind. The three get in the car for the long trip from Mexico City to a region south of Acapulco. On the journey the three engage in much conversation about a wide variety of subjects including sex. Both of the young boys find themselves attracted to Luisa and start to be jealous of one another. Their friendship becomes strained.
When they finally arrive at a remote beach the three travellers meet a local fisherman and his family. They all begin to drink together at a local cantina and it seems as if the two boys will make up. Something ends up happening which makes a friendship between the two awkward if not impossible.
This is definitely one road movie where the characters are what it is all about. Character development is paramount to the film. The story is sorta just a device to allow us to better get to know these three people. Though the two young men are not exactly the nicest you still are able to connect with them and feel what they feel. They turn out to be three of the most human characters you will ever see onscreen.
If you are able to look beyond the sex in the film then you will see that a large part of it is about the social stratification of Mexican society and the political life. Cuaron is able to subtly criticize Mexican society/traditions and how money drives people apart. In the end what separates the two friends is their unequal social classes and that is sad.
At times the film is touching, funny, serious, and always candid. Most importantly it does all these things well. Nothing about the film seems forced or stilted. Even the sex scenes in the film are not bashful or unrealistic. Unlike North American audiences, Mexicans are not stodgy about sex or sexuality. If you want to watch a film that gives you an insight into what 17-year-old boys think about and do then watch this film.
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