A car crash brings three people together: Octavio, who's been entering his dog in fights to raise funds to run off with his sister-in-law; Valeria, who struggles to recover from her injuries as her beloved dog is lost under the floor of a new flat; and El Chivo, a hobo hitman who prefers the company of dogs to people.
Amores Perros opens with chaos, as Octavio and a friend drive away from the latest dogfight with the injured canine on the back seat and enemies in hot pursuit, then hops back, forward and sideways in time. It's a risky device, delaying crucial plot points for over an hour, but the individual stories, which weave in and out of each other with true-life untidiness, are so gripping you'll go along with them until everything becomes clear.
This film will get people's backs up before they've even seen it, by paying not entirely unsympathetic attention to a "sport" that stands as a working definition of cruelty to animals. The last filmmaker to try something like this was Monte Hellman, whose Cockfighter spun him into a career limbo, but Amores Perros shows very little bloody pooch action, using the contrasting dogs in the car crash (Octavio's killer canine, Valeria's pet) to show the different, desperate situations of the three leads.
Octavio's story, which comes first, is the most obvious, the youth in love with the apparently saintly wife of his abusive brother, but the inevitability of its outcome doesn't make it any less affecting. Stories two and three are of stranger loves. Confined to her apartment, recovering from injuries caused by the car crash and resentful of the lover who doesn't need to say he regrets leaving his family, Valeria focuses on the situation of her dog, who has chased a ball through a hole in the floor and not come out, though he can be heard scurrying inside. Tramp hitman El Chivo watches his estranged daughter from afar and tries to fulfill his latest contract, while nursing Octavio's dog back to health - only for it to act true to the nature that has been forced upon it, driving home a hard truth.
Brilliantly directed, written, photographed and acted, this is first-rate filmmaking, horrific and tender, raw and lyrical. Trust us, you need to see this.