Amores Perros is a 2000 Mexican drama film directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu. It is both his directorial debut and the first in his "Trilogy of Death", followed by 21 Grams and Babel. The title translates roughly in English to "Love's a Bitch", though Word of God states that this is not what the title is supposed to mean. It is sometimes referred to as "the Mexican Pulp Fiction", although if you're expecting the film to be in any way similar to that film except in terms of structure, you're out of luck.
The film tells three stories each revolving around a different person or set of persons in Mexico City; interconnected via a common event consisting of a car crash. In the process, it shows how the lower, middle and upper classes in Mexico interact. Each of the stories also involves dogs in some way.
The first story, "Octavio y Susana", stars Gael García Bernal and Vanessa Bauche as the title characters. Susana is Octavio's sister in law, but Octavio is in love with her and resents the way her husband/his brother, Ramiro, treats her. Enticing her to flee with him to start a new life, Octavio enters his dog, Cofi, in the dog-fighting circuit where it quickly becomes a champion, scoring him big bucks with which to do it.
The second story, "Daniel y Valeria", stars Álvaro Guerrero and Goya Toledo. Daniel is a successful magazine publisher who leaves his family to live with supermodel Valeria. Valeria hurts her leg when Octavio's car collides with hers; confining her to a wheelchair for a few weeks. In Daniel and Valeria's new apartment, Valeria's dog Richie disappears down a hole in the floorboards. At night, they can hear it whimpering, and Valeria implores Daniel to try and rescue it. The two get into a fight, and Valeria resorts to trying to rescue the dog herself. Big mistake...
The third and final story, "El Chivo y Maru", stars Emilio Echevarría and Lourdes Echevarría. El Chivo (The Goat) appears on the surface to be a homeless man who cares for stray dogs. In reality, he is a hitman who got involved with a guerrilla movement and thus abandoned his daughter, Maru, many years ago. He and his wife agreed to tell their daughter that he was dead. El Chivo is hired by a man to kill his business partner, but as he is about to do it, he is interrupted by the car crash. He then learns that the target is the client's half-brother, and decides to throw a spanner into the gears...
It was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.
This film provides examples of:
- All Girls Want Bad Boys: Susana is verbally and physically abused by her husband (who also happens to be a robber), yet in the end she chooses him (even after his death) over Octavio.
- Animal Metaphor: Dogs underline the central theme of the movie; love.
- Octavio sees "el Cofi" as a means to win money and therefore Susana's affections.
- Richie serves as Valeria's last tenous connection to her own sanity after the car crash takes away everything in her life.
- El Chivo rescues and cares for multiple dogs. However, it's until he forgives Cofi (and by extension himself) that he realizes he can be a better man and eventually reconnect with his daughter. His renaming of Cofi as "el Negro" can be seen as the start of a new life for both him and the dog.
- Beastly Bloodsports: Savage dogfight scenes.
- Bittersweet Ending: Of El Chivo's story. After forgiving Cofi (and by extension himself), he realizes he can be a better man that can eventually be part of his daughter's life. Just not yet. Word of God even states that he eventually met with her years later and he's now a grandfather.
- Black-and-Gray Morality: None of the main characters could be considered to be "good" people, but they contrast with the definitely "black" antagonists.
- Daniel cheated on his wife and abandoned her and his little daughters to be with Valeria, while Valeria dated Daniel knowing that he was a married man. Daniel still supports Valeria through her entire convalescence, and Valeria is greatly suffering because of the accident.
- El Chivo is an unscrupulous hitman and thief, but also deeply loves his daughter. Furthermore, he sincerely cares for the dogs he rescues.
- Octavio gets into dog-fighting, but only as a means to gain Susana's affections. He becomes more "black" as the movie progresses and thanks to different circumstances.
- Ramiro, Jarocho and Gustavo are definitely black in morality; they have no redeeming qualities of their own.
- Cain and Abel:
- Octavio is the Abel to Ramiro's Cain, competing for Susana's affections; while Octavio only gets into dog-fighting as a way to get the love of Susana and provide a better life for her and her children, Ramiro is a brutish thug that verbally, physically abuses and cheats on Susana, doesn't care for the well-being of his children and is also a robber. It is inverted when Octavio hires some thugs to brutalize Ramiro.
- El Chivo lampshades it when he learns the relationship between Gustavo (his client) and the man he was hired to kill: both are middle-brothers.
- Career-Ending Injury: Because of the accident, Valeria loses her modeling contract with a prominent beauty products firm; and later due to complications, she ends up losing her leg, effectively ending her modeling career.
- Daddy Had a Good Reason for Abandoning You: Deconstructed. El Chivo believed that his crusade for a better world superseded his familial duties, so he abandoned his baby daughter. After 20 years in jail, he came to understand his mistake, but was filled with so much shame that both his ex-wife and himself agreed to let his daughter think he was long dead.
- Dead Guy Junior: Susana decides to name her unborn child after her husband, Ramiro, and this is used to show her choice of him over Octavio.
- Didn't Think This Through: Octavio hires some thugs to beat-up Ramiro after the latter attempts to blackmail a cut out of Cofi's fights, and also as payback for his abuse of Susana. He forgets that, at the end of the day, Susana is still Ramiro's wife, so she escapes with Ramiro when his life is threatened.
- Downer Ending: On the first two stories:
- Octavio ends up in a car crash, that kills his best friend and leaves him severely injured. El Chivo steals all the money he had bet on the final dogfight, and after all this, Susana reveals she will name her unborn child after Ramiro (who is now dead), meaning she chooses her abusive husband over him.
- Valeria has to have her leg amputated, effectively ending her modeling career. Before that, Daniel starts to regret leaving his wife and daughters for Valeria after seeing how unstable she is.
- The Farmer and the Viper: After El Chivo saves Cofi from the car crash and nurses it back to health, it then kills all of the dogs of his house.
- Hyperlink Story: The thread connecting the three main stories is a car crash involving the protagonists.
- Karmic Death: Ramiro, in his first bank robbery he made the mistake of mugging a cop, then the latter's partner appears behind Ramiro and shoots him in the back.
- Love Hurts:
- Morality Pet: Literally in El Chivo's dogs (as the only living beings he offers some kind of kindness to) and figuratively in his daughter Maru with whom he seeks to reconnect after abandoning her as a baby.
- Neutral Female: Susana knows that staying with Jerkass supreme Ramiro is the worst possible option, but even when presented with a way out, she refuses to abandon him. She also never decisively rejects Octavio's romantic advances, and even has sex with him two times. It's only until Ramiro dies that she flat-out rejects Octavio.
- Non-Action Guy: El Chivo's client, Gustavo. When el Chivo offers him an opportunity to kill his own middle-brother (the guy that he wants dead), he finds himself unable to.
- Never Bring a Knife to a Gun Fight: Inverted, somehow Octavio manages to stab an armed Jarocho in front of his mooks.
- "Not So Different" Remark: El Chivo chooses to not kill Cofi - even after the latter kills all of his dogs - once he sees on the dog a reflection of his own life as a cold-hearted killer.
- Professional Killer: El Chivo. He's efficient enough to be hired by judicial policemen and their friends.
- Stalker Without A Crush: El Chivo towards his daughter; he even breaks into her house twice, the second time near the end of the film in order to leave her all his money, a picture of him and recording a farewell message on her answering machine.
- Utopia Justifies the Means: El Chivo was a guerrillero that abandoned his family to try to secure a better world; unfortunately that involved multiple acts of terrorism that eventually landed him on jail.
- Weapon for Intimidation: Early in the movie El Chivo backs down El Jarocho, a thug at least half his age without saying a word and while holding a Machete.