Patrick Jensen (on Indefinite hiatus)’s review published on Letterboxd:
Alfonso Cuarón is probably best known today for being the director of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Children of Men and Gravity. These three are genre films, but many, myself included, tend to forget that Cuarón got his breakthrough with a coming-of-age drama set in his native Mexico in the year of 1999. Y Tu Mamá También is a great film in its own right, and I can definitely say that Alfonso Cuarón deserved to get his breakthrough with this film.
What I liked about this film is how natural it all feels. The characters are grounded and (almost) bereft of pretensions, and are all played excellently. Maribel Verdú easily steals every scene as Luisa, the mature woman who goes on a road trip to a beach called Boca del Cielo. Accompanying her are two young men named Tenoch and Julio, played respectively by Diego Luna and Gael García Bernal, two close friends whose relationship is tested during this road trip. They are obsessed with sex and immature jokes to an extent that would make both Michael Scott and Sterling Archer proud, but I couldn't help myself from getting carried along their juvenile humor and petty drama. The pettiness of their drama didn't bother me too much, as it made for a great contrast to the actual drama, which Luisa's character arc represented in a manner I will not spoil here. The chemistry and dialogue between our three main actors is enough reason alone to watch this film. Also, the film gave me a reason to reference this joke. I won't tell how, though ;)
But it is not just in the acting and writing that the film excels. The direction and cinematography should also be praised. I especially liked the use of voice-over narration here, something I usually don't do, as it made the film feel like a nostalgic trip, as well as sort of a nature documentary, inadvertently poking fun at the emotional conflicts of Tenoch and Julio, which gave me the feeling that the film never took itself too seriously, and allowed me to not be too bothered at their aforementioned petty drama. Emmanuel Lubezki's cinematography further complemented the natural feel of the direction and writing, as the use of natural light and handheld camera brilliantly accompanied our characters, basking in the nostalgic glory of youth, but still handing the film a sense of grit to it by never being too flashy for its own good.
My gripes with the film lies mostly with its pacing, as I felt that the first half of the film took too long to get going, even if important plot points were made, and I never really bought the chemistry Tenoch and Julio had with their girlfriends at the beginning of the film. That did put a dent to my immersion into their arguments later on, when certain discoveries are made, and it did make the drama in the otherwise strong second half feel somewhat forced to me. Also, as natural as Tenoch and Julio felt, it was rather hard to sympathize with them and their personal issues, as they were too douchy to truly care about in the end.
In conclusion, Y Tu Mamá También is a beautifully shot and directed coming-of-age film which blends in the better elements of Richard Linklater's Dazed and Confused with Jack Kerouac's On the Road, yet still feels like its own entity. While I did have some issues with it, I enjoyed it overall and I can only recommend it.