The exploration of human relationships is the main focus of Amores Perros, a film made up of three intertwining story segments, each featuring a dog (or dogs) owned by the main character(s). Each dog’s relationship with his owner, foils a human relationship in the movie. Not only do the pet-master bonds make for some interesting sub-plots, they also help to reveal correlations between how we treat one another, as opposed to how we treat our animals.
In the first segment, Octavio (Gael Garcia Bernal) makes money by entering his dog into dogfights. He also kindles a relationship with his sister-in-law, deals with his abusive brother, and is taunted by a rival dogfight trainer. The second segment is about Daniel (Alvaro Guerrero) and his supermodel girlfriend who face domestic issues after moving into an apartment together. The final segment follows “El Chivo” (Emilio Echevarria), a hit man who attempts to reconnect with a daughter he abandoned years ago. These three story-lines are determinedly different from each other, yet eventually converge during a horrific car crash.
Director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu deserves the utmost praise. Though this is his directorial debut, Inarritu manages to take on three stories and converge them into one movie. His style is incredibly entertaining; the very first scene grabs you in and doesn’t let go. Slower, more touching parts are handled with as much care as fast paced scenes, making the film very well balanced and adeptly made. The only major problem Inarritu falls victim to is ambition. At over two and a half hours long, an entire plot line could have been taken out. Easily the most forgettable segment is the second one, which doesn’t fit into the mood of the rest of the film, and therefore feels like filler material. The section takes away from the momentum built up by Octavio’s story, and as a result, hurts the film’s pacing.
Overall the acting is great, Bernal being the standout. This is Bernal’s breakout role, and he does just as well, if not better than he does in later films such as Y Tu Mama Tambien and The Science of Sleep. Octavio is written as tough but compassionate, character aspects that are amplified by a wonderful performance.
The recurring motif of people’s relationships with dogs must be mentioned. The dogs represent many themes, such as loyalty and companionship, and show what lengths one will go to for the sake of a pet. Additionally, the fact that people are horrified when anything happens to their dog(s), but do terrible things to other human beings, says a lot about the way individuals sometimes treat each other. Props to the screenwriter and director for keeping man’s best friend consistently in the film’s fray, up through the very last (beautiful) shot.
Amores Perros is one of the best directorial debuts of the 2000s. It is extremely well made, with top-notch direction and acting. Inarritu clearly has a knack for weaving stories together in unique and though-provoking ways. Though it feels overstuffed in the middle, the film does astonishingly well on the merits of its first and last acts alone. The movie shows that we live in a dog-eat-dog world, and some things are just out of our control.