I instantly thought of Y Tu Mama Tambien when a student asked me recently if it was possible for a movie to be "for adults" but not necessarily pornography. I didn't go into detail, but I told him that there certainly were movies that wouldn't be appropriate for kids because of their content, but at the same time they're also not for kids because a kid would be bored throughout most of it. I suppose that if I was twelve years old and got a copy of this film, I'd probably skip 95% of the film and just watch the bits where the main actress gets naked. I'm an adult though, and the parts that resonate on a deeper level involve the characters and the story.
I've written before about how I think that most people don't understand film criticism or its purpose. All they do is pay attention to the number of stars or the direction of the thumb, when the point is to pay attention to what the critic said was good or bad about it. With a good critic, you can figure out if you'd probably like a film even if the review is mostly negative.
With that said, I read some reviews where I begin to think that a certain critic has absolutely no business reviewing films. This is how I felt while checking out some of the reviews for Y Tu Mama Tambien on RottenTomatoes.com. Overall, the score is positive, with 91% positive reviews. Still, there are some negative ones. That's fine. I don't think that a person is a bad critic if they don't like the movie. What gets me is that some of them are making comparisons to the American Pie films. Huh? Don't get me wrong, I like the first two American Pie movies, but they don't belong in the same sentence as this movie. The "Pie" movies are teenage sex comedies, and that's their intended audience. They're really good at doing what they do, but if all you're getting out of "Mama" is crude jokes and sex humor, then MAN are you missing the point.
The plot is pretty basic and could easily be the setup for a teenage sex comedy. Two teenage friends go on a road trip, and they are accompanied by a very attractive, and very adult, woman. Sexual antics do ensue, but there's a lot more going on than just that. The sex in the movie is not a setup for a joke. In fact, the movie has a lot of good insights into sexuality - the prime one being that just because you know what it is, that doesn't mean that you know anything about it.
Of course, there's a lot more going on as well. There's insight into Mexican culture (it's a Mexican film, after all) and history. Also, the woman who accompanies them is hiding a secret from them, and she has an agenda of her own. Her willingness to have sex with these boys is not because she's some sort of horny plot device. She's in some serious pain - for several reasons, and her actions are perfectly believable. By the end of the film, you actually empathize with her and feel for what she's going through.
On top of all that, there's a lot about class differences that might be hard for a lot of Americans to relate to. One of the friends is from a wealthier family than the other, and there is a lot of unspoken tension as a result of this. There's other kinds of tension between the two of them, and where they wind up at the end of the film is also completely believable.
I guess I wouldn't recommend this film to just anybody. It's certainly not for kids. It's also not for those who can't stomach the idea of reading subtitles. I suppose that some people might like it for the sheer fact that the woman shows her boobs, but I wouldn't want to hear a positive review from somebody who appreciates it for that reason and that reason alone.