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'Mam†' mixes humor, complexity

Mexican independent takes look at class system, culture through teen-agers' eyes

For those who lamented that another "Amelie" would be hard to come by, jubilant relief has arrived in the form of the coming-of-age foreign film, "Y Tu Mam† TambiÇn."

On the surface, the film is a simple tale of two teen-age boys who are beside themselves with sophomoric glee because they have convinced an older, attractive woman to join them on a quest to frolic on an exotic, relatively unknown beach.

Luisa CortÇs, played by Maribel Verdu, aptly plays the boys' source of infatuation and appears to be more open to their advances because the love of her life has cheated on her. As is the case with every character in the film, a more tragic reality lies subtly tucked beneath the surface. Each revelation is delicately exposed within the seamless flow of the film to teach a myriad of lessons that one cannot fully grasp at first glance.

Tenoch Iturbide, played by Diego Luna, comes from a well-off politically active family. He carries the weight of his family's moves to gain a more prestigious status within the opulent upper strata of the Mexican class system, which is generally known for two levels - the rich and the poor. He aspires to be a writer, but his father insists that his son study economics. Patriotically named for an Aztec legend, Tenoch is caught up in being an oversexed boy who rejects his father's views.

Julio Zapata, played by Gael Garcia Bernal, is Tenoch's partner in crime who comes from a lower-class family. He lives with his mother and sister, a student activist, and largely shares the same outlook on life as Tenoch.

The duo's girlfriends head to Italy for the summer, leaving them bored and focused on an endless cycle of beer, drugs and masturbation. The film includes heavy sexual content, and one who does not pay attention could easily mistake sex as the centerpiece of the film.

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Luisa joins the boys on a road trip to the exotic beach, which they had invented to impress the strikingly beautiful woman in her early 30s. Along the way, they recount hilarious tales and explain the bond of the Charolastra, which is an agreement among friends that is equal parts noble and ridiculous.

The film, produced by Jorge Vergara and directed by Alfonso Cuaron, adds numerous layers to what could easily dissolve into a foreign version of a mind-numbing teen flick. Instead, with the help of cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, the film takes on a whole new sensibility that is painfully honest in chronicling the humbling loss of innocence - the transition from believing you know all the answers and are invincible to wishing you didn't know a thing because the truth really does hurt.

Cutaway scenes that focus on roadside distractions such as roosters or the impoverished countryside allow for the perfect narration of each character's hopes and fears. "Y Tu Mam† TambiÇn" feels a lot like a combination of "Reality Bites" and "Como Agua Para Chocolate" thanks in part to Lubezki, who worked on all three films.

Subtitles give this film wider accessibility, which could be a hurdle even for Spanish speakers because of heavy reliance on slang native to Mexico City. The film's Web site,, offers a fascinating dictionary of common slang used in the film.

Released in the United States by IFC Films, the Mexican movie broke box office records there last year. On the heels of last year's widely acclaimed "Amores Perros," "Y Tu Mam† TambiÇn" marks a resurgence of the Mexican film industry.

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