Here Are All Of The Things Alfonso Cuaron Did To Make The Chemistry On ‘Y Tu Mamá También’ Real
If you haven’t seen Y Tu Mamá También, the 2001 LGBTQ classic Mexican film directed by Alfonso Cuarón, you should probably look it up. Back then, the explicit sex and drugs used in the film caused so much controversy, people had no idea how to rate the film. Today, it is the undisputed most poignant Mexican film of the era.
With director Cuarón’s rising fame with his latest film, Roma, even more juicy details have come out about his experience with Y Tu Mamá También.
First and foremost, Y Tu Mamá También is streaming on Netflix right now.
Trust, you need to know that this is accessible to you before embarking on this journey. It’s been 18 years since it was first released and is a timeless classic to this day.
Brothers Carlos and Alfonso Cuarón worked on the film together.
The two had written the film ten years prior and they both finally had the means and name to make it happen.
The whole movie was shot with handheld cameras.
Cuarón decided that it would give more freedom to the artistic angle and to the actors. To avoid dizzying sequences, they decided to pose it as if watching from a distance.
“It looks like shit; it’s great!”
They took a documentary style approach to film the feature, something that wouldn’t have been done even four years prior. Cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki would be filming and Cuarón would ask how it looks. He told IndieWire how it went down:
“And he would say, ‘It looks like shit. And I was like, ‘What’s wrong?’ And he’d be like, ‘No, let’s shoot it. It looks like shit; it’s great!’ And that was the philosophy.”
The film was shot in sequence, a rarity in production.
It’s in part due to the nature of the movie, set as a road trip, so they just followed the same map as in the film. The only scene shot out of sequence was the very last scene in the coffee shop to get the climactic moment out of the way, and the pressure off as the last scene shot.
Gael García Bernal and Diego Luna are childhood best friends IRL.
Just like in the movie, the two grew up together. This genius move allows for the chemistry to already be there, like watching the two friends in a past life.
Maribel Verdú is a Spanish actress, not Mexican.
Just like her character Luisa Cortés, who is visiting Mexico from Spain, the actress fell in love with the country as she discovered it. A true parallel to her character’s discovery. This is not a coincidence.
Cuarón intentionally kept the three stars from getting too comfortable with each other before shooting.
He told IndieWire, “Gael and Diego have known each other since they were kids and they didn’t know Maribel [Verdú]. There were only two rehearsals with the three of them. We were supposed to have more, but I didn’t want the ice to be broken. So they used that as a tool. So as the ice melts between the characters, it was happening in real life, in the same way Maribel was feeling more comfortable in Mexico, the character of Luisa is feeling more comfortable in Mexico.”
Much of the film is unscripted.
Apparently, they had the idea 15 years prior to do a road trip movie that would just follow young actors with a barebones storyline. They wanted to see where the actors would take it.
The narrator idea was inspired by Masculin, Feminin.
At first, Carlos didn’t like the idea. Alfonso tells IndieWire,
“I set out with Carlos to do something very objective. I said, ‘We need a narrator, a third-person narrator.’ And he said, ‘No it won’t work; we need a first person narrator.’ Then I showed him Masculin, Feminin, and the first time that Godard uses the third-person narrator, hewas like, ‘Okay, play no more, I get it.'”
Cuarón returned to his home country Mexico for the first time in ten years during filming.
Cuarón considers this a return to his roots not because of his return to Mexico, but to his creative roots. He told IndieWire that he wanted “to make a film that we would have loved to do before going to film school, when you don’t know how to shoot a movie or compose a shot. It was going to be a film school teacher’s nightmare. It was not about breaking the rules, but about not knowing the rules ever existed.”
The film broke box office records in Mexico.
In the first weekend alone, it earned $2.2 million, a never before seen feat. It was later distributed to over 40 countries, and made another $13.62 million in the United States alone.
Since Bernal’s appearance in Y Tu Mamá También, he’s been named one of Time’s 100 most influential people.
He’s worked on Coco and Babel on the big screen, and his English-language performance on Mozart in the Jungle earned him his first Golden Globe Award for Best Actor. Also, he’s obviously a model, so that helps with fame and all.
The film was nominated for eight major awards and won three.
All of which were for “Best Foreign Language Film” at the New York Film Critics Circle Awards, Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards and the Independent Spirit Awards. It’s soundtrack was nominated at the Grammys.
Y Tu Mamá También won the Best Screenplay Award at the Venice Film Festival.
It also earned a nomination for Best Original Screenplay at the Academy Awards, a big step for any foreign film to be recognized by heavily English language focused market. In fact, the film caused huge controversy in the U.S.
It was released without a rating in the U.S.
Movie critic Roger Ebert tried to rally movie industry execs to become outraged at this double standard in accepting violence for minors but not the depiction of sex (homoerotic sex, at that). He told the Chicago Sun Times, “Why do serious film people not rise up in rage and tear down the rating system that infantilizes their work?”
Cuarón sued the Mexican Directorate of Radio, Television and Cinema (RTC) for it’s 18+ rating in Mexico.
They considered it illegal political censorship, though the board was considering explicit language, sexual content involving teens and drug use. Cuarón cited RTC for denying parents the responsibility of choosing what their child can watch.
While the film is centered around sex, you barely have to read between the lines to see the real message.
This woman enters their lives with a dark secret, in the middle of a divorce, but is able to enjoy life moment by moment with the adolescent drive to keep things light and physical. She plays into it, which allows the boys to keep things light and physical with each other.
After the road trip is over, the magic lifts.
They pretend their encounter never happened, and find out a year later that Luisa died a month after their escapade from cancer. The two move on with different girls, never to touch that side of themselves again.
Bernal and Luna’s kiss was nominated for the MTV Movie Awards for Best Kiss.
In real life, the two compadres have founded Canana Films together, based in Mexico City. That means we can expect more poignant, artistic films and actors coming out of Mexico.