• James Rutherford

‘The Motorcycle Diaries’: An Impassioned Re-creation of Che Guevara’s Historic Motorcycle Expedition


Movie poster for the film The Motorcycle Diaries starring Gael Garcia Bernal and Rodrigo De la Serna

“The Motorcycle Diaries” (2004) is an inspired Spanish-language drama starring Gael Garcia Bernal as a young Ernesto "Che" Guevara as he travels the lengths of South America by motorcycle, alongside his close friend Alberto Granado (Rodrigo De la Serna).


In 1952, with a semester remaining to his medical school education in Buenos Aires, Guevara chooses to enlist Granado for a South American odyssey by motorcycle—a 8,700 mile expedition to Peru where they would volunteer at the San Pablo leper colony. Their trek is initially intended as an indulgence of youthful adventurism, but ultimately proves to be dramatically influential for the idealistic and impressionable Guevara.


Guevara and Granado’s travels take them across the Andes to Chile, through the treacherous Atacama Desert and into the lush Peruvian Amazon, all the while encountering an eclectic assortment of amables, obreros, expatriates, and of particular note, indigenous peasants whose poverty has a profound effect upon Guevara—opening his eyes to the stark inequality prevalent throughout the countries and cultures they traverse.


Directed by renowned Brazilian filmmaker Walter Salles (“Central Station”, “Behind the Sun”), “The Motorcycle Diaries” is an effervescent, wistful and often pointedly amusing adventure film underscored by a wonderful sense of human empathy. As a glimpse into the early exploits of a burgeoning revolutionary bound for worldwide recognition as a symbol of rebellion, it delivers a candid and enormously heartening paean to a remarkable historical luminary. In all, it’s a rousing four-star affair and an absolute must-see.

 

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