best film:  Gael Garcia Bernal starred in Amores Perros (2000) and Y tu mamá también (2001) in back-to-back years (these are actually consecutive roles in his career). These are two seminal films in the Nuevo Cine Mexicano movement. Bernal plays Octavio in Alejandro González Iñárritu’s film and Julio in Alfonso Cuarón’s film. Bernal seized the moment here in the early 2000s and landed the lead role in Pedro Almodóvar’s Bad Education (2004). Almodóvar’s film is highly underrated – it was largely viewed as a bit of a disappointment upon its initial release in 2004 coming off of two of Almodóvar’s most highly regarded releases (Talk to Her in 2002 and All About My Mother in 1999) but a closer examination of the three films reveals that it is Bad Education that is the most artistically accomplished of the three (3). Bernal is not asked to do much in Jim Jarmusch’s The Limits of Control (2009) – but neither is Tilda Swinton, John Hurt, or Bill Murray (all of whom show up in support of the lead Isaach De Bankolé) – but that film is undoubtedly in the class of the others here.


best performance: For Gael Garcia Bernal, it is those same three films mentioned in the category above (Amores Perros, Y tu mamá también, and Bad Education) that finish gold, silver and bronze here. In Y tu mamá también, Bernal plays off sparring partners Diego Luna (as Tenoch) and Maribel Verdú (as Luisa). Certainly, Cuarón’s film has connective tissue with François Truffaut’s Jules and Jim (1962) with the love triangle set up – two guys going for one girl dynamic  – many similar scenes to the French New Wave masterpiece.


Gael Garcia Bernal in Y tu mamá también – the film has more than enough space for three (3) immaculately crafted and complex characters. The relationship between Julio (Bernal) and Tenoch (Diego Luna) is one filled with, among other things, envy. During their epilogue meeting in the coffee shop years later – it is almost sobering – they have different hair, there are awkward, uncomfortable silences – followed by the devastating summation by the narrator that they will never meet again.


stylistic innovations/traits:   Gael Garcia Bernal was born in Guadalajara, Mexico in 1978 – meaning his best work has transpired while he was still young – in his twenties (20s). He currently has eight (8) films in the archives and three (3) years (2000, 2001, and 2004) where he produces one of the best performances of the year. Bernal is an essential part of the Nuevo Cine Mexicano – the movement really lead by Alfonso Cuarón, Alejandro González Iñárritu and Guillermo del Toro. These three (3) are amongst the most talented auteurs in the modern era – and all emerged from Mexico around the same time in cinema history. It is Cuarón’s fourth (4th) film before he pairs with Bernal, and del Toro had Cronos in 1993 – but it not until the turn of the century with Amores Perros (2000), Y tu mamá también (2001) and The Devil’s Backbone (2001) – three juggernauts – that the Nuevo Cine Mexicano phrase and movement starts to gain traction and attention. Bernal is integral to two (2) of these three (3) films. Almodóvar is Spanish of course, and not part of this movement – but he aligns with Bernal (off the strength of those two prior films) for Bad Education. This is definitely a juicy role – and it is in one of the best films of Almodóvar long and exceptional career.


Bernal in 2004’s Bad Education – the third and final pillar in his phenomenal run during the front half of the 2000s decade.


directors worked with: Alejandro González Iñárritu (2) – the first and last film in Iñárritu’s unofficial trilogy of death, Alfonso Cuarón (1), Pedro Almodóvar (1), Jim Jarmusch (1). Bernal has shown he can work in both Spanish language films and English language films. He has shown he can help make archiveable films for directors from Mexico, Spain, The United States – and others – from Brazil (Walter Salles) and Chile (Pablo Larraín).


Bernal, in his debut, as Octavio in the tripartite film Amores Perros (2000) – his first (1st) of two (2) collaborations with auteur Alejandro González Iñárritu.


top five performances:

  1. Y tu mamá también
  2. Bad Education
  3. Amores Perros
  4. The Motorcycle Diaries
  5. No


archiveable films

2000- Amores Perros
2001- Y Tu Mama Tambien
2004- Bad Education
2004- The Motorcycle Diaries
2006- Babel
2009- The Limits of Control
2012- Casa de mi Padre
2012- No