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The beauty of the South American landscape and of Gael Garcia Bernal (Y Tu Mama Tambien, Bad Education) gives The Motorcycle Diaries a charisma that is decidedly apolitical. But this portrait of the young Che Guevara (later to become a militant revolutionary) is half buddy-movie, half social commentary–and while that may seem an unholy hybrid, under the guidance of Brazillian director Walter Salles (Central Station) the movie is quietly passionate.
Guevara and his friend Alberto Granado (Rodrigo de la Serna, a lusty and engaging actor) set off from Buenos Aires, hoping to circumnavigate the continent on a leaky motorcycle. They end up travelling more by foot, hitchhiking, and raft, but their experience of the land and the people affects them profoundly.
No movie could affect an audience the same way, but The Motorcycle Diaries gives a soulful glimpse of an awakening social conscience, and that’s worth experiencing.