Category Archives: Director Series: Alejandro González Iñárritu

21 Grams (2003)

Director Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu began his uplifting “Trilogy of Death” with his directorial debut of Amores Perros. Just three years later, he and writer of the entire trilogy Guillermo Arriaga completed the second installment of the trilogy: 21 Grams. In many ways, 21 Grams tries to emulate Amores Perros both in style and content. The strategy seems well-guided, for Amores Perros was a true masterpiece in the way it employed non-linear story-telling, showed important themes such as companionship, and brought seemingly unrelated stories together. Additionally, the action in the different stories constantly kept the viewer intrigued. In other words, the movie never dragged. Unfortunately, despite its clear attempts, 21 Grams fails to live up to Amores Perros in many aspects, most notably in overall intrigue and pace. It’s still impressive in its directing, non-linear nature and convergence of unrelated stories, though, and even surpasses Perros in acting, particularly of main characters Naomi Watts, Benicio Del Toro, and Sean Penn.

Iñárritu is one of the few directors who dares to completely throw linear storytelling out the window while, at the same time, juggling different storylines. 21 Grams follows the stories of Jack Jordan (Del Toro), an ex-con, born-again Christian; Paul Rivers (Sean Penn), a man with a heart condition and one month to live; and Cristina Peck (Naomi Watts), a happy wife and mother of two. All three of their lives are brought together by Jack accidentally running over Christina’s husband and two daughters. The use of a car accident to bring the stories together is a not-so-subtle relation to Amores Perros and the downward spiral each character faces following the accident is comparable as well. Jack turns himself in to the police, attempts suicide in prison, and never can reconnect with his family or God following the accident while Cristina struggles to deal with her crippling loss and falls back into alcohol and drugs. Paul is the only one who benefits, receiving Cristina’s husband’s heart which prompts him to forge a relationship with Cristina.

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Amores Perros (2000)

Alejandro González Iñárritu wasted no time in putting his ambitions—in the form of non-linear, multidimensional storytelling—on the big screen with his first full-length feature film Amores Perros. The title can be translated two different ways. The literal translation is “Dog Love”, but for those who think that means it is the Spanish version of Must Love Dogs, you will be in for quite a surprise. The second, less literal translation, “Love’s a Bitch”, more aptly captures the essence of the movie, and likely will scare off those hoping for a feel good movie about dogs and John Cusack.

In fact, there are hardly any “feel good” moments in Amores Perros. Rather, the movie focuses on important themes such as the value of companionship, whether it be from family or dogs, and the corruption of this value. Iñárritu achieves the promotion of said themes in an unorthodox but extremely effective manner that involves three seemingly distinct stories told in a fragmented and, at times, non-linear manner. And just to make things even more interesting, Iñárritu opens the film en media res; to be specific, en media of the most important res: the moment that brings the three main stories together.

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