Brazilian director Walter Salles' inspiring adaptation of Ernesto "Che"
Guevara's memoirs chronicles the young Argentine doctor's 1952 coming-of-age
trip up the western coast of South America, through Chile, Peru and the Amazon
to Venezuela, on a dilapidated Norton 500 motorbike with his buddy, Alberto
Granado. It's an eight-month, 8,000-mile journey of self-discovery that will
change both of their lives forever.
As the trip begins, sensitive, soulful Ernesto (Gael Garcia Bernal), an
asthmatic 23 year-old, and Alberto (Rodrigo De La Serna), a chubby, carousing
29 year-old biochemist, seek adventure - and they find it. When Ernesto's
virginal girlfriend rebuffs him, he irresponsibly flirts with a married woman,
necessitating a hasty departure from a small Chilean town. As they travel,
along with the abundant, light-hearted frivolity, however, comes Ernesto's
growing frustration with social inequity, particularly towards the impoverished
indigenous people, descendants of the once-great Inca civilization that
dominated the Andes. "So much injustice," he notes.
With an elegant, stunning visuality, Salles and screenwriter Jose Rivera
not only capture the drama and earnest idealism of a time and a place but also
what inspired Ernesto's revolutionary fervor, transforming his destiny.
Leisurely episodic in nature, it relishes both the harshness and the romance of
buddies on the open road while subtly planting Ernesto's political roots. In
Spanish with subtitles, the performances are strong enough to overcome the
language barrier. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "The Motorcycle
Diaries" is a tender, haunting 9, concluding with the indelible image of the
now-82 year-old Dr. Alberto Granado.
Copyright © 2004 Susan Granger