In my last post on ¡Viva! New Mexican Cinema I promised you a post on En el último trago and a little bit of discussion about Mexican road movies because recently I attended an intro talk on the subject, or so I thought. Long story short, the intro was supposed to happen before the film’s screening but the director was having some kind of eye surgery so here we are, just over a week later and Jason Wood, HOME’s Artistic Director kindly not letting us down and still giving the talk for free… Without the Mexican road movie part. So, I’m going to concentrate on En el último trago and it’s own road trip with my own thoughts thrown in for good measure.
Four men are sat in a launderette playing dominoes. During the game, we discover pieces of back story about each of the elderly men. One’s wife has recently died, another has an ill wife and a daughter who overdosed, one lives with his son whose wife doesn’t want his dad living with them any more and the last one has cancer. Terminal lung cancer. He presents his stunned friends with a napkin that an old Mexican singer wrote song lyrics on and gave him years ago and makes the men promise to hand deliver the napkin to the Mexican singer’s museum. It’s quite a distance for 3 octogenarians, but with the passing of their friend they set off with nothing much to lose.
What is the purpose of a road trip movie, anyway? To act as a literal symbol of an internal journey that it’s participating characters are experiencing? A physical change of scenery to depict other changes? I look back over my favourite road trip movies: Little Miss Sunshine (2003), Thelma and Louise (1990) and yes, of course Y tu Mama Tambien (2002), and what do they all have in common? At the start of the trip they set out to do one thing and end up accomplishing not what they thought, but learning so much more about themselves and anyone riding shotgun. In order for this to happen, you need to place your characters in a situation they have never been in before and let the inevitable take place.
The difference with En el último trago is that *SPOILER ALERT* not all of the participants get to the end. In fact, the majority of the participants have to bow out early. One has a heart attack having sex in a Brothel, but was he unhappy that his journey was cut short in this way? …What do you think? The second road tripper was sadly taken by his son’s army friends way too early. He didn’t want to leave. And the third made the journey. He made it.
Was he a changed man? In a way, but I think this road trip’s true purpose was embedding the thought that’s already in most of our mantras, just one we forget to remind ourselves of: It’s not too late, you’re not too old, you CAN do whatever you want… All three men were given just enough change of location to realise that just because they’re dying, it doesn’t mean they’re dead.
Now… why is the Mexican road movie a thing? You’ve got me. Maybe because it’s got a history of being a country unsure of itself, politically and culturally. Maybe it wants to make use of it’s beautiful landscapes, or maybe because it feels like it’s got a lot to learn. We all have something to learn, but maybe Mexico is being less arrogant about it and accepts this. I like to think this is the case.
Are you a fan of Mexican films, or perhaps even Mexican road movies? Let me know in the comments below, because you’d be more qualified than I!