The Motorcycle Diaries follows a rebel trying to find his cause


Oct. 5, 2004, midnight | By Rocky Hadadi | 16 years, 3 months ago


Before Cuba, Castro, and the CIA, when the world had never heard the name "Che," Ernesto Guevara was but an idealistic medical student in Argentina, trying to discover both the world and himself. The Motorcycle Diaries, directed by Walter Salles, centers more on Guevara's path of self-discovery than his eventual revolutionary status, but is successful in conveying the wide-eyed optimism and fiery determination that made Guevara the worldwide icon he is today.

Guevara (Gael Garcia Bernal) and his friend Alberto (Rodrigo de la Serna) are young twenty-somethings craving a more independent, carefree life—namely, full of revelry, women, and adventure. Leaving their medical school education behind, the two men embark on their 9,000 mile journey around South America on a beat-up old motorcycle, whose constant breakdowns lead them to many of their experiences during the trip. Together, Guevara and Alberto cross mountains, deserts, and rainforests, braving all forms of weather and hardship.

But it is not their romantic flings, their unreliable transportation or the various landscapes they pass during their trip that change the two men forever. It is the poverty, cruelty, and suffering they see experienced at every place they stop—from a group of lepers in Peru, to migrant workers in Chile, to offspring of the ancient Incan civilization in Machu Pichu. By the end of the film, the two different paths of life the friends will choose becomes obvious, even though they started out with the same goals, dreams, and aspirations.

It is not only breathtaking scenery and believable dialogue that help make The Motorcycle Diaries a successful film, but the strong acting showcased in it. Both Bernal and de la Serna deliver charismatic, shining performances, each unique in their own ways. Bernal, whose introductory turn in Y Tu Mama Tambien smoldered his face into the minds of women everywhere, does a fantastic job of capturing the hidden nuances of Guevara's character. He is constantly watching, thinking, observing the anguish around him, entrancing the people he meets with a gentle bearing and burning sense of purpose. In contrast, de la Serna portrays Alberto as a charming, sly character, whose bursts of emotion complement Bernal's more composed version of Guevara.

Taken out of its political context, The Motorcycle Diaries works not only as a movie about the relationship between two close friends. The movie shows us how a journey can change one's life forever.

The Motorcycle Diaries (128 minutes), playing at Dupont circle and Landmark Bethesda Row, is rated R for random romantic hookups and enough obscene language to make a sailor blush.



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Rocky Hadadi. So, Rocky Hadadi has a very small life. She likes Baz Luhrmann. She likes Rancid. She wants to have John Frusciante's lovechild of guitar solos. Her interests include: meaningful friendships with CAP girls, exceptional Magnet amigos, track suits, aquamarine, Chucks, velvet Docs, painting random crap … More »

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