Eye For Film >> Movies >> The Motorcycle Diaries (2004) Film Review
This is Che Guevara like you've never seen him before. Forget the revolutionary with a gun and wind the clock back a few years to January 1952, to a time before political causes when a young medical student named Ernesto Guevara (Gael Garcia Bernal) - then nicknamed Fuser - kept a diary of a road trip he made with his closest pal, biochemist Alberto Granado (Rodrigo de la Serna), to look for America - South America that is.
Armed with little more than his basic asthma medicine, a tent and a puppy for his girlfriend, he sets off on the back of Alberto's Norton motorbike - nicknamed The Mighty One - on a journey which not only brings them from Argentina through Cuba, Peru and Colombia to Venezuela, but also brings them to manhood and the first stirrings of political idealism.
This all sounds very worthy but, although serving in part as a documentary about the socio-political problems which faced the indigenous peoples of South America at that time, Walter Salles's drama offers much more than political posturing.
First and foremost this is a coming-of-age story, as we watch Che and Alberto overcome the odds of a motorbike "that pees oil", a lost tent and no money through sheer force of wit and will to reach their goal of seeing the continent and spending time as volunteers in a leper colony.
The film has a huge heart, as you warm to the womanising Alberto and earnest Ernesto in their quest to "travel for travelling's sake," only to discover - as most people who've ever travelled in a fit of youthful idealism - that reality is having a profound effect on them as they go.
The cinematography is stunning, from the desert dusts of the Atacama to the snow-laden mountains of Chile it is a feast for the eyes. The acting is also second to none. Bernal has been impressing us for some time now in the likes of Y Tu Mama También and Bad Education, but special mention must also be made of de la Serna, equally important and impressive as his happy-go-lucky road partner. They are utterly convincing and it is this central relationship which helps the film to thrive as both a comedy and a drama.
It must have been tempting for Salles to speculate about Che's revolutionary tendencies - and the seeds are here - but he plays down this aspect in favour of showing the men as two ordinary twentysomethings with philanthropic tendencies - and an eye for the ladies. While Che's actions occasionally seem almost too good to be true, the film stops short of sentimentality and is beyond everything else, a very good story that is exceptionally well told.
Watch it and then pray they don't remake it with an all-American cast.Reviewed on: 17 Aug 2004