The Motorcycle Diaries (2004)

Ⓒ Film Four/Wildwood Enterprises/Tu Vas Voir Productions
Ⓒ Film Four/Wildwood Enterprises/Tu Vas Voir Productions

Director: Walter Salles Cast: Gael García Bernal, Rodrigo de la Serna

In this movie adaptation of Ernesto “Che” Guevara’s autobiographical work of the same name, we learn about the events that shaped one of the world’s most famous revolutionaries. Ernesto, known commonly as “Fuser” in this film, sets off on a road trip with a friend on a motorcycle across South America, with the aim of reaching Venezuela. On their way, they encounter number of fascinating people who live in poverty, under oppression, or in segregation, and who eventually influence the political views of the person we all think of when we think of Che Guevara.

I really enjoyed this film, far more than I thought I would. It had been on my list of things to watch for ages, since I’ve visited loads of the places featured in the film, and as a responsible Spanish graduate I thought it’s one of those films I should watch- but I’d been putting it off because I thought it would be slow and tedious. However, from the outset the film is compelling and it has a lot more depth to the storyline than I had expected. Rather than just the story of a road trip, it demonstrates the events that pushed this middle-class doctor to become a communist guerrilla fighter, through the people that he meets. Knowing what we know about Che Guevara, it’s interesting to see how he got to that point, and I think it portrays him in a positive light- you can clearly see how he was affected by circumstances.

The film is in Spanish, so this might put off some people as it requires subtitles, but I also think it shouldn’t be written off just because Che Guevara isn’t necessarily an interesting enough topic. For those who wouldn’t immediately choose this film, I would say don’t let any preconceptions of Che Guevara get in the way, because it can be approached from an angle that just tells the story of someone who is affected by the poverty he sees, rather than what we know happens later on in his life. There’s also some really good acting (a very convincing friendship between he two main characters), a few comic moments, and some beautiful scenic shots of South America. The film isn’t packed with action, but the storyline moves quickly enough to keep you on your toes. A great option for a more thoughtful film.

4 stars


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