Sólo con tu pareja

Sólo con tu pareja
Director: Alfonso Cuarón
Screenplay: Alfonso Cuarón and Carlos Cuarón
Stars: Daniel Giménez Cacho (Tomás Tomás), Claudia Ramírez (Clarisa Negrete), Luis de Icaza (Mateo Mateos), Astrid Hadad (Teresa de Teresa), Dobrina Liubomirova (Silvia Silva), Isabel Benet (Gloria Gold), Toshirô Hisaki (Takeshi), Carlos Nakasone (Koyi), Ricardo Dalmacci (Carlos), Claudia Fernández (Lucía), Luz María Jerez (Paola), Nevil Wilton (Pasmal)
MPAA Rating: NR
Year of Release: 1991
Country: Mexico
Sólo con tu pareja: Criterion Collection DVD
Sólo con tu parejaAlfonso Cuarón’s feature debut, Sólo con tu pareja, is a semi-successful attempt to update the screwball comedy in the era of AIDS and telenovelas. Cuarón’s hero is a womanizer named Tomás Tomás (Daniel Giménez Cacho) whom one might describe as a lothario except for the fact that Cuarón goes to such lengths to ensure that he is likeable. Yes, he seduces every woman who comes within two feet of him and often can’t remember their names when he’s sending them out the door the next morning, but he just can’t help himself. He loves women too much, and apparently they love him, as well. (Plus, he’s pratfall-prone, which always makes a selfish character more sympathetic.)

Tomás makes a big mistake, however, when he fails to satisfy Silvia (Dobrina Liubomirova), a nurse who works at the office of his doctor and neighbor, Mateo (Luis de Icaza). She retaliates by forging his medical results, leaving Tomás to believe that he has contracted AIDS, which in the late 1980s in Mexico was still largely considered a “gay disease” and outside the province of heterosexuals (even those like Tomás who routinely forego safe sex).

To be fair to poor Tomás, though, his failure to satisfy Silvia is not entirely his fault because his attentions that night were being torn between Silvia, who was in his apartment, and his sexually rapacious boss, Gloria (Isabel Benet), who was awaiting him in an apartment down the hall. This sets up a classic farcical situation in which Tomás is trying to please both women without allowing either one to know of the other’s existence, which requires him to crawl out the bathroom window and walk along the edge of the building six stories up in order to slip from apartment to apartment. It is the film’s maniacal high point and the one moment when Cuarón seems completely in control of his material.

The film doesn’t work as well once Tomás falls in love--really, genuinely falls in love--with Claudia (Clarisa Negrete), a pretty flight attendant who recently moved in the apartment next door with her fiancée, an airline pilot. Ironically, Tomás first sees Claudia through the window while he is scaling the ledge between apartments, and from there on he is smitten. In another twist on screwball conventions, Tomás and Claudia end up bonding over a mutual suicide pact that finds them atop the Latin American Tower while their friends race to tell Tomás that he does not, in fact, have AIDS.

Produced in the early 1990s and set in Mexico City, Sólo con tu pareja tries to strike a balance between bedroom farce and social commentary, but its jokes often come off as strained at best, in bad taste at worst. The title itself, which literally means “Only with your partner,” is a jab at an AIDS public service announcement that played heavily in Mexico around that time. The film’s jokiness is never quite offensive, but it does often play as being rather juvenile.

In his feature debut as director, Cuarón gives Sólo con tu pareja a sense of stylish aplomb that elevates it visually above most films of its genre (not to mention virtually every film being produced in Mexico around that time). He deploys tracking shots and close-ups and an obsessive use of the color green with great effect, which makes the film an intriguing primer for his later output, including Hollywood productions like A Little Princess (1995) and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004, still the best of the Harry Potter films), as well as his gritty and funny sexual tour de force Y tu mamá también (2001). Cuarón is an innately gifted filmmaker, and while Sólo con tu pareja can be called a mild success at best, it is still worth seeing just to witness the debut of a significant talent.

Sólo con tu pareja Criterion Collection DVD

Aspect Ratio1.78:1
AudioSpanish Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo
Subtitles English
  • “Making Sólo con tu pareja” documentary
  • Short films by Alfonso Cuarón and Carlos Cuarón
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • Insert booklet featuring a new essay by Ryan F. Long, and a “biography” of Tomás Tomás, written by Carlos Cuarón
  • DistributorThe Criterion Collection
    Release DateOctober 17, 2006

    The transfer of Sólo con tu pareja, which was approved by director Alfonso Cuarón, was taken from the original 35mm camera negative and restored with the MTI Digital Restoration System. The image is excellent throughout, with good detail and strong colors that reflect Cuarón’s impressive visual style. As a relatively low-budget film, there is a slight graininess to some of the images, but I would imagine that this reflects the film stock and filming conditions. The original stereo soundtrack, mastered at 24-bit from the 35mm Dolby LT/RT magnetic track, is also very good, with clear dialogue and nice fidelity.
    “ Making Sólo con tu pareja” is a half-hour retrospective documentary that includes new video interviews with director Alfonso Cuarón, screenwriter Carlos Cuarón, and actor Daniel Giménez Cacho. It offers some crucial insight into the state of filmmaking in Mexico in the early 1990s, as well as the cultural background of the film’s setting. Both Cuarón brothers are well-spoken and thoughtful in their interviews, although Carlos tends to be humorously crude at times (he refers to cinema as a “whore” that seduced him away from literature). A real bonus on the disc is the inclusion of two short films, one by each of the Cuarón brothers. Alfonso Cuarón contributes a 1983 black-and-white film called Quartet for the End of Time, the title of which alone suggests that it is a typical example of slightly pretentious student filmmaking. Nevertheless, it is fascinating as an early glimpse of a great talent in formation. Carlos Cuarón’s film, Wedding Night (2000), is a bit newer and successfully milks a single gag for five minutes. The disc also includes the film’s original theatrical trailer, and the insert booklet features a new essay by Ryan F. Long and a “biography” of Tomás Tomás, written by Carlos Cuarón (other character “biographies” are available on the Criterion web site).

    Copyright ©2006 James Kendrick

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    All images copyright © The Criterion Collection

    Overall Rating: (2.5)

    James Kendrick

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