This Hispanic Heritage Month, brush up on your Spanish and your dating game with seven Latin American movies about love, sex and relationships from every stage and walk of life.
‘Y tu mamá también’
If you haven’t seen this gorgeous film yet, we envy you. Alfonso Cuarón’s story of an extraordinary meeting-turned-road trip between a wandering woman (Maribel Verdú) and two lifelong friends (Gael García Bernal and Diego Luna) will stay with you long after the first watch, its scenes appearing in your mind from time to time like forgotten dreams. Upon its release, Newsweek so accurately reported that “The movie has an emotional kick that lingers like a primal memory. When the year is over, Cuaron’s film will be remembered as one of 2002’s finest.” Two decades later, that still holds true.
‘Like Water for Chocolate’
Based on a novel of the same name, Like Water for Chocolate “tells a dark, sad, horrific but heartening story in sweet, gleaming images that tickle ribs, quicken senses and awaken hungers,” according to the Los Angeles Times. “There’s just one word for it: Scrumptious.” From director, actor and voice artist Alfonso Arau (A Walk in the Clouds, Three Amigos!, Coco), this love story follows a forbidden passion set against cultural traditions and tense family loyalties that give way to a supernatural surge through the heroine’s expressionistic cooking.
‘Carmen and Lola’
This LBGTQ+ romance follows the difficult realities of two Roma teenagers living in the suburbs of Madrid — one set to marry a man she barely knows, the other expected to trash her goals and work her family’s fruit and vegetable cart. When the girls meet and a mutual attraction starts to develop, it throws a wrench into their plans and sends a shock wave into their tight-knit community that ends things with a heavy blow. But, Remezcla reminds us: “This isn’t the kind of screenplay [Arantxa] Echevarría could simply package with a pretty little bow. By refusing to take the easy way out, she transforms Carmen & Lola into a less cliché, forbidden love story with real consequences.”
Watch Carmen and Lola now.
In 2009, Pedro Almodóvar’s strange and wonderful creative vision brought us the modern film noir Abrazos Rotos. With Penélope Cruz in the leading role, her fourth with Almodóvar and one of the most memorable and critically acclaimed of her career, the story centers on a man who must come to terms with his past — and the car accident that blinded him and changed his life forever. Like in all the director’s work, “You may get whiplash following the twists and turns” in this one, but Rolling Stone also curiously suggests that this movie represents his own “broken love affair with film itself — how a camera can lie and keep secrets that maybe only another camera can reveal.” Mind-bending, as usual.
One of Adam Sandler’s very first forays into non-comedic acting landed him the part in Spanglish and reviews that hailed his “performance [as one] of thoughtfulness and depth.” As the easy-going patriarch of a family managed by neurotic mom (Téa Leoni), their lives are thrown totally off balance when their housekeeper Flor (Paz Vega) and her daughter move in. According to the AV Club, “Vega radiates effortless strength and charm in her first Hollywood role, and Sandler proves to be a gratifyingly unpredictable leading man, self-effacing one moment and hilariously emphatic the other.”
‘Fools Rush In’
This early effort from noted rom-com director Andy Tennet (Fool’s Gold, Sweet Home Alabama, Hitch) will tickle any fan of the genre. Starring Matthew Perry — during the height of his Chandler days — and Salma Hayek at the very start of her career — Fools Rush In offers a light-hearted take on the opposites attract trope, as well as a welcome dose of ’90s nostalgia. But it’s actually good! “Yes, the movie is a cornball romance,” Roger Ebert wrote. “But there is also a level of observation and human comedy here; the movie sees how its two cultures are different and yet share so many of the same values, and in Perry and Hayek it finds a chemistry that isn’t immediately apparent. That’s a nice touch.”
‘How To Be a Latin Lover’
A directorial debut by certified goof and prince of satire Ken Marino, this rom-com from whence we draw our headline features Mexican superstar Eugenio Derbez as a gold-digging trophy husband living large — before having to turn to the world’s oldest profession to maintain his luxury lifestyle. But, if you’re worried or wondering, this effort’s a few steps above Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigalo (and a different story altogether); The The New York Times calls the movie “surprisingly deft in mixing Mr. Derbez’s broad but accomplished style with more ostensibly hip-absurdist Anglo modes of humor.” Salma Hayek, Rob Lowe and Kristen Bell co-star.
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