|Gael García Bernal: One of the finest stars of Mexican cinema|
Photo credit: Yann Caradec licensed CC BY-SA 2.0
The movie that made Gael
Well, to be very honest, though the movie released way back in 2001, it wasn’t until 2009 that I finally watched it for myself. All those years, however, I did know this movie in bits and pieces from an assortment of sources; for example, I knew that it was about a trio on a crazy road-trip across Mexico, that it was critically acclaimed all over America, that it had a generous dose of sexual content, and that it literally launched Gael García Bernal on the Mexican movie scene. What I failed to recognize back then was how this movie could prove incredibly indispensible to anyone learning Spanish, particularly the Mexican flavor!
I admit I just loved Gael García’s acting skills in this film but I was already a fan way before I watched it. More than half a dozen awards for his work in this film meant he would become the instant hot-property in Mexico everybody was after. Starting here, Gael went on to play his signature roles as Che in not one but two epic masterpieces including Diarios de Motocicleta! It only helps to note that he comes from Guadalajara which is widely accepted as the epicenter of Mexican culture and that he started acting before he started going to school.
Though, like I said, the film doles out generous helpings of skin and erotica, it is not sex that stands out in the story; what stands out is the artistic presentation of all this sleaze. And, yes, there’s more than a hint of homophobia with Gael García Bernal and Diego Luna sharing quite a chemistry. Nevertheless, the story is more about the teenagers’ coming of age, their friendship, and the changing chemistry between them during a summer road-trip they made with an older chick escaping from her marriage.
The trip in itself, a remote hint of Diarios de Motocicleta, is all about flamboyance, youthful hedonism, adventure, and a sense of liberation. The icing on the cake is their diverse social backgrounds which helps paint one of the most authentic pictures of modern Mexico’s class differences. Julio, played by Gael, from a middle-class family subscribing to leftist ideologies while his friend, Tenoch, played by Diego Luna, comes from a high-profile political family. It should only be a given that, if you are keen on knowing the Mexican culture and lifestyle while learning Spanish, this movie is probably the second best means of the closest possible encounter, the best being living in the country for a first-hand experience.
A goldmine of Mexican colloquialism
One reason why this movie deserves a spot in every Spanish learner’s collection is its heavy reliance on dialogs. Dialogs are key to understanding this story as what matters most here is what the characters say rather than what they do.
Also, since you are learning Spanish, especially the one spoken in Mexico, you don’t want to miss out on the goldmine of local colloquialism and slang jargon that these dialogs offer! For this reason, it is infinitely important that you watch this movie only with subtitles – Spanish, of course. As far as the visuals go you are in for a treat, for the camera rolls past some of the most breathtakingly original images as the protagonists drive past the poor Mexican countryside.
Were this movie produced by a glamorous Hollywood house, it would have been your typical raunchy road-trip skin-flick with little more than cheesy lines and naked people all over each other like a bunch of hampsters. But we are talking about Y Tu Mamá También here, which is as deep as it gets with its layered characterization, refreshing visuals, engaging dialogs, and a rare, raw storyline.
Our strong recommendation: Whatever you do, just do not skip this masterpiece no matter what if you are truly crazy about learning Spanish. Just don’t forget to hook it up with original Spanish subtitles and you are done. And don’t let yourself be put off by the sex and homophobia because even if the message of this film is out-of-sync with your philosophy, remember that your goal is learning Spanish and this movie fits the bill in every way imaginable.
Don’t forget to watch it over and over again in infinite loops until you are capable of recalling the lines ahead of the characters and can understand every single word without the subtitles. That will certainly take time but, as they always say, the juice is by all means worth the squeeze!