In spite of its age, the film doesn’t seem dated except for its use of AIDS as a bogeyman. It’s odd how AIDS has lost its scare power over the years, but the film reminds viewers of how devastating it was to the cultural psyche of the time, especially with comedic yet insightful throwaway lines like Tomas’s insistence that “you can’t catch it over a phone line.” Here it’s used as a sobering wake-up call that the protagonist finally has to grow up and get serious about life, assisting in his rebirth as a dedicated monogamist.
Rather than reinforce the stereotype of a smarmy Latin lothario, Cuaron defies expectations by giving his lead substantial depth as an extremely average man with a stable, unspectacular career. Tomas is not particularly attractive, muscular or rich, but he still manages to use his charm to land dates with ease. He’s so immature that his idea of a good time is a daily morning streaking run to the bottom of his apartment building’s stairs and back. This focus on the common man allows viewers to more easily identify with the character and sympathize when his life changes.
Similarly, the love interests in the film aren’t mindless bimbos. One conquest is Tomas’ boss, an intelligent and demanding mature woman. Another is a nurse who plots her revenge but still cares enough for Tomas to come to his rescue. Finally, the principal object of his affection is a lovelorn young beauty who doesn’t fall for his charms but instead grows to love him through the genuine care he shows toward her.
This being a Criterion release, the DVD package is stacked with bonus content. Features include new interviews with the creators, early short films by both Cuaron and his brother Carlos, the original trailer, and a booklet with an essay about the film as well as an extensive biography of Tomas Tomas originally written to help the actor get fully immersed in the character. The presentation of the actual movie is superb, with rich, striking colors, digital restoration to remove dirt and scratches, and a new high-definition digital transfer from the original camera negative. Nothing less would be expected from the highly-regarded Criterion, and they uphold their meticulous standards yet again with this release.
Written by Caballero Oscuro