The Motorcycle Diaries

The Motorcycle Diaries

*****

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

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.

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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
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Coming of age drama based on the writings of a young Che Guevara.
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Amber Wilkinson *****
Amber Wilkinson *****

Director: Walter Salles

Writer: Jose Rivera, based on books by Che Guevara and Alberto Granado

Starring: Gael Garcia Bernal, Rodrigo de la Serna, Mia Maestro, Mercedes Moran, Jean Pierre Noher, Lucas Oro, Franco Solazzi, Ricardo Diaz Mourelle, Marina Glazer, Sofia Bertolotto

Year: 2004

Runtime: 126 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: Argentina/Chile/Peru/US

Festivals:

EIFF 2004

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