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The Motorcycle Diaries

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: The Motorcycle Diaries

Starring: Gael Garcia Bernal, Rodrigo de la Serna
Director: Walter Salles Jr.
Rated: R
RunTime: 128 Minutes
Release Date: September 2004
Genre: Drama

*Also starring: Mia Maestro, Mercedes Moran, Jorge Chiarella, Jaime Azocar, Sofia Bertolotto, Ulises Dumont, Facundo Espinosa, Susana Lanteri, Jean Pierre Noher, Gustavo Pastorini

Review by Susan Granger
3½ stars out of 4

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

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