Amores Perros (2000)

Love’s a dog/love’s a bitch/love dogs
Amores Perros
Directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu
(number 491)

I saw this back in 2000/2001 when it screened in the Wellington film festival. I went on my own, during the day, back when I didn’t work full time and I would also use my annual leave for the movies. I sometimes miss doing that, just chilling out in town and tootling along to movies with only a vague idea of what I was about to see.

I saw a lot of amazing movies that way, and some which put me to sleep. Some that stuck with me vividly and some which I forget utterly until some random thing reminds me and I have massive flashbacks.

So, watching this again, over ten years later, I could remember a few things but not the shape of the story. Not the names of the characters or what happens to them.

The director later went on to direct 21 Grams (which I found terribly grim) and then Babel (which I haven’t seen).

Amores Perros deals with three interlinked stories. A man who loves his brother’s wife, a model whose livelihood is threatened after a car accident and a homeless man trying to make his way back to his family.

Gael García Bernal plays Octavio, in love with Susana and wanting so much to save her from his abusive brother. He’s such a charismatic and appealing actor, even though Octavio is a total idiot I want him to win. He sort of falls into making money through dog fighting – which yeah. If you have any issue at all with seeing dogs fighting/hurt then this isn’t the movie for you. It’s quite graphic.

Valeria is played by Goya Toledo and she’s stunning and absolutely dedicated to making us feel sympathy and horror for her plight. Her story is undercut with a strange one of the floor in the apartment giving out – and her small dog going in and getting trapped under the floor. It’s a strange kind of parallel to the helplessness she feels – trapped suddenly in a wheelchair. There’s also a lot of cheating going on in this storyline so maybe the dog-in-the-floor is a metaphor for that too? Somehow?

Um. The last story is about El Chivo – the homeless man who takes in stray dogs and cares for them and also shoots people for money. His is the most heartbreaking tale, we see him care for the dogs (instant good guy, right?) and try to reconnect with his daughter. It kind of makes you forgive him for the other stuff he does.. in a weird way.

Does it make me love the people? Absolutely. Even as they do awful things, treat the people they love horribly and make horrible decisions. You can’t help but feel for them all. You can see what they want shining in their faces and you want it for them.

Bechdel test: Yes! Yes, Susana yells at her mother about looking after the baby and her being drunk. Does it count? I can’t remember if the mother says anything back or just blinks in a drunken haze.

Best line: “Being tough won’t make you smart.”

State of Mind: Weirdly calm. I feel serene in the wake of the movie. Maybe because I could remember how depressing 21 Grams was and this wasn’t as bad?

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