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The Motorcycle Diaries

Genre: Adventure/Drama
Rated: R
Directed by: WALTER SALLES
Written by: JOSE RIVERA, based on books by ERNESTO "CHE" GUEVARA and ALBERTO GRANADO
Released by:
Focus Features

In Short: The Motorcycle Diaries could have been a joy-ride buddy pic, but instead it shows the transformative power of travel.

Che Chic
The Evolution of a Revolutionary
By Andrew Bender

It’s 1952 and two twenty-something medical students set off from Buenos Aires on what’s to be a carefree trip around South America. The trip will prepare one of the students to become a doctor. It will prepare the other to become Che Guevara.

Che (Gael García Bernal) begins this film as Ernesto, 23 years old and none too remarkable. He’s quiet, loving, smart, empathetic, honest to a fault, prone to debilitating asthma attacks and hopelessly romantic. His traveling companion Alberto (Rodrigo de la Serna) is a fast-talking, wheeler-dealer ladies’ man, and the witty chemistry between them provides a smart backdrop as they encounter the rich weave of a continent.

The Motorcycle Diaries could have been a joy-ride buddy pic – many road movies have gotten by on far less. But it shows, with great subtlety, the many South Americas of that day: rich and poor, sick and well, clothed and ragged, those who live for pleasure and those for whom pleasure is a dream. Through the sweeping Argentine pampas, the Andes grey and cold, magnificent Machu Picchu, grand, noisy cities and the squalor of a leper colony, it’s hard to remember a film so diversely, and beautifully, shot. If the Motorcycle Diaries doesn’t make you want to head south of the Equator, you’re really not a traveler.

But what’s most special are the faces, faces like those in photographs by Dorothea Lange: unwashed, ruddy, furrowed faces with the nobility of the hard-working underdog, wracked by disease, poverty or the corporate mill. The faces in this picture moved us, and it’s easy to imagine how they could have inspired the young Ernesto on his journey.

And that, ultimately, is what the Motorcycle Diaries is all about: the transformative power of travel. But if you’re a regular visitor to, you already know about that.

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