Boys!!! Why do teenage boys think with their bodies rather than with their heads or hearts? And why do so many grow up to become men who think with their bodies rather than with their heads or hearts?
Rich kids Julio and Tenoch are no different than some of the young men that I went to school with, and their plight at times frustrated me, but at other times helped me to better understand the male psyche.
Anyone can tell a tale of adolescence, of the excitement of being on the threshold of adulthood. Sex, drugs, jealousy, confusion, pain, and pure joy. Where the Cuaron brothers excel is weaving in the contrasts between the safe lives of these two upper class boys with the stark poverty and cruel truths that lye just outside their protected worlds.
The character of Luisa, a beautiful, exotic woman, who surprisingly joins the two best friends on a journey to the beach, was unexpected and exciting. Imagining that she would grow bored of their antics, she instead seemed rather to enjoy their youthful exuhberance. As expected, she causes a rift between Julio and Tenoch, a much needed interruption that brings about frank honestly and the emergence of the harsh realities of adulthood.
Adulthood can bring about unexpected change. Sometimes that change involves growing up and apart from people whom you once cared the most about. Having shared extremely intimate and powerful experiences, Julio and Tenoch return from their trip to the beach forever changed. Sadly, their friendship paid the ultimate sacrifice, and the two would never again know that close connection they once shared.
Alfonso Cuaron took on a daunting task here. Casting was critical, as the lead roles called for two young men who could not only portray carefree youth, but who could also tackle emotional and physical intimacies powerfully. I have long been a fan of Gael Garcia Bernal, playing the character of Julio, who can make me smile or cry in the blink of an eye, but I appreciated Diego Luna's portrayal of Tenoch even more. Putting forth a brash, confident facade, it was his moments of heartbreak, from realizing his girlfriend cheated on him, to watching Luisa take up Julio for an instant, that moved me. Cuaron did an amazing job of bringing out the childish antics as well as the pain of adulthood from these two great actors. While most of the dialogue was filled with teenage vulgarities, it was the narrative of the characters emotions that drew me in. Describing the pain of being hurt by your best friend as a "stabbing pain that sits just above your stomach," and relating it to the most painful, confusing experiences as children, was screenwriting brilliance, in my eyes.
The narrative of the landscape and the people throughout their journey to the beach was also extremely moving. The Cuaron brothers brought to live a vivid Mexico, one with interesting people, places, and stories that should be told and shared.