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Craig's Movie Club
Movie Reviews

Spotlight on: The Motorcycle Diaries

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The Motorcycle Diaries DVD Cover The Motorcycle Diaries (Diarios de Motocicleta)

Gael Garcia Bernal offers a riveting performance as the young Ernesto Guevara de la Serna in Walter Salles' film of The Motorcycle Diaries, based on book by both participants: Guevara's Notes on a Latin American Journey and Alberto Granado's Traveling with Che.

Guevara and Granado (Rodrigo de la Serna) are two Argentinian medical students who decide to trek across South America on a twenty-year-old motorcycle, hoping to arrive in Venezuela in time for Granado's thirtieth birthday.

The trip matures them in many ways, bringing out their true natures, especially once they arrive at their destination, a leprosy clinic (Guevara's specialty). There the sick are separated from the caregivers by a river, even though lepers in treatment are not contagious.

A lot of The Motorcycle Diaries feels contrived (especially the melodramatic climax) to paint a saintly portrait of the future revolutionary and guerilla (who would become known by the regional nickname "Che"), giving him few flaws aside from a typically human libido. Although, only de la Serna is allowed to take that to its full lustiness, leaving Bernal to play "romantic."

But it is effective storytelling nonetheless, mostly due to the genuine performances by Gael Garcia Bernal and Rodrigo de la Serna, a actual relative of Guevara, but Eric Gautier's cinematography also makes good use of the locations to offer a sense of time and place.

Fans of the political side of Guevara will appreciate a few allusions to his future, but you don't have to be a supporter to enjoy the "buddy movie" aspects of The Motorcycle Diaries, and the "coming of age" of a couple of young men, on its own terms.

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