Here we go again; another loosely-interconnected-characters ensemble piece, though this one is much more like Crash than the others (not the least being the central plot point being a car crash). Anyway, it was thanks to the Wikipedia article for Amores Perros that I finally learned the term for films like Magnolia, Nashville, and Short Cuts; hyperlink films. It’s an apropos name, and I might be remiss in saying that I found Amores Perros the best of the bunch, but I’ll still say it. Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s debut feature, Amores Perros manages to do what the other hyperlink films don’t really manage so well; make me care about the characters and what happens to them.
The film is a triptych story, containing three unique and separate plotlines, which all connect at one point; in this film, that one point is a car crash which involves the main character of each story in some way. One involves a young man who is in love with his brother’s wife, and turns to entering his dog in dogfighting matches to get enough money for him to run away with her. Another is about a model having an affair with a married man, and how the central accident shakes up their supposedly unbreakable relationship. The third, which was my favorite, involves a hitman masquerading as a homeless man trying to find a way to reconnect with the now-grown-up daughter he abandoned at two years old. Each story is told one after the other, but with setup scenes of the other two stories mixed in with each. The whole style was very much like a mash-up of the “randomly skipping between storylines” structure of Magnolia or Short Cuts and the “segmented chunks of story told out of order” style that was Pulp Fiction, and indeed many people have referred to Amores Perros as the Mexican Pulp Fiction, which was another title I found quite apropos. The only other Inarritu film I’ve seen is Babel, and my complaints with that film seem to have been non-existent with this one; there was a passion behind the stories of this film that wasn’t there in Inarritu’s later work, and it caused me, as a viewer, to be passionate about the stories in return, and especially about the characters involved. While the hitman story was my favorite, each story had its own themes and topics and emotions to bring to the table, and I didn’t find anything that I particularly disliked. The only thing that I would definitely see as able to rub some the wrong way is the level of violence in the film involving the dogs; dogs are a recurring motif in the film, and there’s a lot of bad stuff that happens in regards to them. Now, I went into the film knowing that it was there, and also that it was faked and how it was done, which took off a bit of the impact, so if you’re an animal lover, you either might want to stay away from this one, or do what I did and prepare yourself for what lies within.
Even with the film’s hefty two-and-a-half-hour running time, I managed to like this one a good deal. It’s got a lot in common with the other hyperlink films mentioned above, but it didn’t seem to have very many (if any) of the other films’ shortcomings, which is what made this work so well for me. That, and Inarritu’s obvious investment in the stories being told, where in Babel it seemed like he was doing it just for the sake of doing another Amores Perros, and ended up phoning it in most of the time. I think that if it wasn’t for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, this would’ve stood a really good chance at taking home the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film; it’s not only well done, it hits the right notes for a general audience (including the Academy) to easily fall in love with it, as seen five years later when Crash would win Best Picture. I’d say, as long as you can handle the dogfighting segments, this is definitely one to check out.
Arbitrary Rating: 8/10