Although we “cinetrekked” through many films this term, the two that struck me the most were Vicky Cristina Barcelona and Y Tu Mama Tambien. It was very interesting because while the films had some similarities, they had many differences as well. The directors both chose to portray stories of adventure and exploration, but the plotlines take their own twists and turns while intriguing the audience. Throughout this paper, I will explain some of the differences and the similarities between these two films in the areas of location, acting, directing, plotlines as well as several other aspects.
Vicky Cristina Barcelona chronicles the adventures of two female friends, Vicky and Cristina, in Barcelona. They meet the mysterious painter Juan Antonio and Cristina is immediately drawn to him. Vicky, while more close minded, has a brief fling with Juan Antonia as well and ends up falling in love with him. When Juan Antonio’s ex-wife is thrown into the mix, things get complicated and Vicky and Cristina return home, both having learned about themselves. In Y Tu Mama Tambien, two friends, Tenoch and Julio meet an older woman named Luisa who is desperate for an adventure, and set out on a road trip to a beautiful beach. Along the way, they learn a lot about life and each other with Luisa’s help.
Both of these films are set in Spanish speaking countries. Vicky Cristina Barcelona is set in the beautiful countryside of Spain, and Y Tu Mama Tambien is set in Mexico City, Mexico. In Vicky Cristina Barcelona, the setting is absolutely stunning. Beautiful architecture and landscapes throughout the whole film accent it and really make Spain look like a wonderful place to go. The director, Woody Allen, chose to do this to glorify Spain, and set the film in a very romantic setting. He wanted the audience to understand how easy it may be to fall in love in such a beautiful place. We find ourselves rooting for Vicky and Juan Antonio to be together, although she is engaged to be married. The setting of the film has a lot to do with this romantic feeling this film seems to emanate, and that is exactly what the director wants the audience to feel. Y Tu Mama Tambien, is set going throughout Mexico city. There are many scenes of poverty throughout the film. While these scenes are not actually important to the plotline of the film, they draw attention to the political issues going on in the country at the time as well as the issues with poverty. The director chose to do this because he wanted to make this film seem very realistic. The characters in the film seemed almost unfazed by some of the surrounding images of poverty, like they have seen it all before. He in no way tried to beautify Mexico, like Woody Allen did to Spain in his film. This lets the audience relate more to the characters in the film, because they know this is a realistic story. In Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Hollywood kind of takes over, making the story seem more of a fantasy than a reality.
The actors for both of these films were very carefully picked out. The casts in both films were actually very similar to each other. Both films featured two young people as the stars, and one slightly older person costarring alongside. In Vicky Cristina Barcelona the director chose Scarlett Johansson as one of the lead characters, which is a popular actress in many of his films. Also in many of Woody Allen’s films “The male protagonist is often older (sometimes a lot older) than the women he pursues. He clings to the role of teacher and guide, flaunting his wit, erudition and self-deprecating humor” (Holden 2008). Likewise in Y Tu Mama Tambien, the director Alfonso Cuaron puts an older actress in the film with the two younger boys to sort of guide them through their journey. She offers them advice through her own personal experiences on life, sex, love and friendship. Both the boys in Y Tu Mama Tambien and the girls in Vicky Cristina Barcelona learn from these older characters in the films and are changed people by the end of the films. The older characters, Juan Antonio and Luisa, also take the younger characters on a sort of “vacation” away from real life, and by the end of both the films, when Juan Antonio and Luisa are both gone, real life resumes and the younger characters have almost begun a new type of life. The directors choose to use this type of cast to show their audiences that some of the most important lessons of life are learned from unexpected places and people.
Another aspect of both the films that both the directors used is the background narration. Both films have an unknown narrator that reveals certain things abut the characters that may not be obviously apparent to the audience. The reason the director chooses to have an unidentified author instead of one of the characters in the film, is so that their position is objective. They are not supposed to know more about one character than the other, and not have an opinion on any issue in the film. They are simply there to inform the audience. In Y Tu Mama Tambien, “Cuaron interrupts the proceedings often so that a narrator can inform viewers of the companions' secrets, the histories and fates of the people they meet, and, finally, what happened after the trip ended” (Hornaday, 2002). Likewise, in Vicky Cristina Barcelona, the narrator explains how the characters are feeling and what they hope to find in Spain. The narrator also lets the viewers know of the past and current relationships of the two women, therefore making it easier for the audience to understand the viewpoints each woman sees on love, and this actually causes viewers to relate themselves to one character in particular. The narrator is important too because it does not leave readers asking questions about what happened after the film ended. It gives a very short type of epilogue to the films, leaving the audience with a better understanding of what will happen to the characters. For Y Tu Mama Tambien, one critic notes: “Rather than take the audience out of the movie, these interludes open the film up, so that the final effect of "Y Tu Mama Tambien" is one of expansive, almost spiritual power”(Hornaday, 2002). Both films end in a way very different than they started. The directors do this to create an ending different from most conventional films, leaving the audience to go home and think about the films for the days to come.
Overall, the directors of both these films were very careful and specific in selecting their casts, locations, and plotlines. Each part of the film was put together carefully to create the effect the director was aiming for. Both directors want to show that it is easy for people to learn and grow, and sometimes they do so unwillingly. All the characters in these films learned more about themselves, simply by traveling to a new place and meeting new people. Both directors want to remind their audience that life can be very refreshing, and when looking for a change maybe all one really needs to do is have a change of scenery.
Holden, Stephen. “Sex (and Love and Death): Woody's World Steams Up” The New York Times, August 20th, 2008.
Hornaday, Ann. “'Y Tu Mama': The Ride of Their Lives; On a Drive to Nowhere, Boys Find Themselves” The Washington Post, May 3rd, 2002.