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flick pick | The Motorcycle Diaries 2004
Directed by: Walter Salles
Written by: Ernesto "Che" Guevara (book), Alberto Granada (book), Jose Rivera (screenplay)
Starring: Gael Garcia Bernal, Rodrigo de la Serna
Language: Spanish [with English subtitles]
Look for it at the video store under: foreign, drama
Watch it when you’re in the mood for something: artsy-fartsy, quintessentially quasi-adult, true?!?
The critic says: / 5 the rating system explained
Fun factor: /5 

Plot synopsis In 1951, a twenty-three year old medical student from Buenos Aires by the name of Ernesto Guevara embarked on a long road trip around South America with his friend, twenty-nine-year-old biochemist Alberto Granada. Riding on the back of a not-so-trusty motorcycle lovingly nicknamed The Mighty One, the two high-spirited young men planned to travel through Argentina and into Chile and Peru, doing some volunteer work at a leper colony on the banks of the Amazon before finishing off their trip in Venezuela, just in time for Alberto to celebrate his thirtieth birthday. They wanted adventure and excitement and good times -- and hey, if they bedded a few babes along the way, so much the better. But things didn't quite go according to plan, as Ernesto and Alberto encountered foul weather and bike mishaps, ran out of money and fell into trouble with locals. Broke, vehicle-less, and way behind schedule, the two intrepid travelers forged ahead nonetheless, and found themselves getting to know a side of Latin America that their previously pampered selves had never before encountered face to face. For young Ernesto, in particular, it was a road trip that changed everything, as the journey into the heart of Latin America provided the foundation for the ideals that would eventually turn this aspiring doctor into the world-famous/infamous Che Guevara -- communist, revolutionary, guerrilla leader, icon.

Review I'm sad to say that for a long, long time, my knowledge of Che Guevara went about as far as recognizing him as that guy on the t-shirt. Like Jimi Hendrix or Bob Marley or Andy Warhol, Che Guevara's image was iconic, though what that particular icon represented wasn't entirely clear to me. When your mug gets plastered across so many neo-hippie chests, the image has a tendency to become divorced from the man, to become an icon without meaning. So when I started watching Walter Salles' The Motorcycle Diaries, a biopic about Che Guevara's pre-revolutionary days, I figured this would be an educational experience, a flick that would be good for my history-ignorant self. That the movie also featured the very purty and talented Gael Garcia Bernal (Y Tu Mama Tambien, Amores Perros) didn't hurt. As it happens, The Motorcycle Diaries doesn't tell you a whole lot about Che Guevara the political figure. Instead, it does something that turns out to be a lot more interesting: it presents us with a pre-Che Guevara who any of us can easily identify with no matter what our worldview, and shows us how the experiences that we don't plan can sometimes have the most profound influence on who we become. Sure, the violence that lies in Guevara's future is hard to ignore as we watch Garcia Bernal's charismatic portrayal of the passionately idealistic young Che, but ultimately, The Motorcycle Diaries leaves the politics behind. What we're left with is a gorgeously shot, beautifully acted, appealingly low-key story that serves up both poignant moments and real laughs -- an eminently engrossing road movie about friendship, ideals, and growing up. —reviewed by Yee-Fan Sun

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