Having just seen 21 Grams and having liked it very much, it was almost imperative that I see the debut movie that put director Alejandro González Iñárritu on the map in the first place. That movie is Amores Perros.
Amores Perros, or "Love's a Bitch," is a collection of depressing tales that range from a young man in love to a hired killer who misses the daughter he never knew. The movie starts out with a chapter about Susana and Octavio, a young mother and her brother-in-law, respectively. Octavio is in love with Susana, even though she is married to his horrid brother, who is much better at robbing banks than he is at being a husband. The movie switches gears partway through to cover the story of Valeria, a model whose career is put on the line when she is involved in a terrible car crash. Though her boyfriend, Daniel, tries his best to help her through things, her depression leads to a rift that may not ever be mended. Finally, the movie climaxes with a story about El Chivo, a hit man who has been hired to kill a businessman. His plans are changed when he witnesses the car crash and he begins to see life from a new perspective. As with 21 Grams, all of the stories are connected by a car crash.
Gael García Bernal, who has done a terrific job in such successful films as El Crimen del Padre Amaro and Y tu Mama Tambien, stars as Octavio, and turns in yet another good performance (granted, this movie was filmed before the aforementioned ones). I am surprised that this guy hasn't made the transfer to American films yet, as he could be the big Mexican actor Hollywood is looking for. Here, he transgresses from being a caring and loving young man to a rather flawed individual torn by jealousy and hatred. The other truly notable performance belongs to Álvaro Guerrero, who plays Daniel; he is the most likeable character of the story and also the one who struggles most to be good.
Amores Perros is a well-directed and well-written film (the writer, Guillermo Arriaga, also did 21 Grams) that is edited to perfection and explores the dark recesses of the mind. The acting is great, but the same flaw that I found in 21 Grams is here as well: it is hard to relate with any of the characters. Most of the characters become so depressed or consumed by anger that it is hard to feel compassion for them; even ones with the simplest of intentions end up doing less than good things. Amores Perros is a thoroughly depressing movie and it is hard to truly "enjoy" such a movie, even from a critical viewpoint.
Amores Perros is also disturbing when it comes to dogs. Any dog lover should probably avoid this movie. There are about 30 dogs featured in the movie, and by the end, only one survives. The rest are rather graphically killed, typically in money fights. It is amazing how the death of innocent animals (even if they aren't really dead) can affect someone's psyche when watching a movie.
Amores Perros is a good yet depressing movie that shows the foundations of what 21 Grams, which is an excellent movie, is based upon. The movie is a little bit too long (about 157 minutes) and slow in a few parts, but for those who like character-driven films such as this, it is a must see.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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