Review: The Motorcycle Diaries (2004)

The Motorcycle Diaries

The Motorcycle Diaries



Walter Salles


Jose Rivera (Books: Notas de viaje by Ernesto Ché Guevara, Con le Che por America Latina by Alberto Granado)


128 min.


Gael Garca Bernal, Rodrigo De la Serna, Ma Maestro

MPAA Rating

R (For language)

Buy/Rent Movie



Source Material


Ché Guevara was a revolutionary of significant magnitude in South America. Responsible for the popular uprisings in several countries, Ch met his death at the hands of those who opposed his ideals. The Motorcycle Diaries doesn’t look at his life as a civil leader but as a young man growing up on a road trip through South America.

Before completing his education as a doctor, Ernesto Guevara (Gael Garcia Bernal) agreed to a motorcycle trip across Argentina, through the Chilean Andes and up to Macchu Picchu and finally to a leper colony. His companion and financier for the excursion was fellow physician Alberto Granado (Rodrigo De la Serna).

The film is about the relationships of these two men as they travel through disparate conditions to see the truth behind South America. They don’t want to see the artificiality of the capital city or the rich but the honest, hard-working Spanish people of South America. The Motorcycle Diaries takes its name from books written by the medical tourists about their journeys together.

Director Walter Salles, whose work on films like Central Station has always tried to show the fortitude of the Hispanic populace of South America, guides the film lovingly from beginning to end. The film never achieves a rousing climax. It’s a pensive and consistent movie throughout.

Bernal and De la Serna give outstanding performances, building a believable relationship between their characters. So convincing are their portrayals that any reviewer might forget to cite these actors names alongside their role like I nearly did.

The cast is small but effective. Alongside Bernal and de la Serna is Ma Maestro who portrays Ch’s love interest Chichina Ferreyra. They spend longer than they intend at her Argentine estate where their relationship draws concerned looks and distaste from the others living within. Elsewhere in the picture are various people the two meet along the way, few of which share a sizeable screen time but each proves to be the perfect plot device to propel the story forward.

The story gives the audience a deep understanding of the poverty that Guevara sought to prevent. He was a revolutionary for the people and it was his concern and compassion, much of which he learned in the final scenes at the fluvial leper colony, that made him a powerful leader. The Motorcycle Diaries gives us every detail we need to understand why this man gave his life and the lives of other revolutionaries to achieve independence from tyranny.

This is the kind of movie that a serious student of the art of filmmaking will relish. The moral can be found hidden deeply but is easily confirmed as the two arrive at the leper colony, separated from the main housing compound by a large river. They are told the specific rules of handling and dealing with the lepers by the staff of nuns that tend them. They promptly disregard them deciding it would be better to deal with the patients as people and not disease-ridden creatures.

The pace of The Motorcycle Diaries is not conducive to repeat viewing but Salles gives the audience every bit of information they need so that a second time through will only cement the ideas presented to the viewers. It’s a film that anyone could enjoy if they would just sit themselves down to watch it.

Review Written

March 2, 2005

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