“The Motorcycle Diaries” is an adaptation of a journal written by Ernesto “Che” Guevara (Bernal) when he was 23 years old. He and his friend, Alberto Granado (de la Serna) are typical college students who, seeking fun and adventure before graduation, decide to travel across Argentina, Chile, Brazil and Peru in order to do their medical residency at a leper colony.
That’s the plot, but this film is much, much more than that. Salles and screenwriter Jose Rivera have taken Guevara’s journal and turned it into a film that captures, like a photograph of a spark of flame from a match, the young Che Guevara before he became the Revolutionary Che Guevara.
“The Motorcycle Diaries” begins as a buddy/road movie in which Ernesto and Alberto are looking for chicks, fun and adventure before they must grow up and have a more serious life. As is said in the film itself, it’s about “two lives running parallel for a while.” The two best friends start off with the same goals and aspirations, but by the time the film is over, it’s clear what each man’s destiny has become.
However, “The Motorcycle Diaries” is subtle, funny and touching. It’s not like a blow-by-blow “Birth of a Hero” type of film. The script is near perfect and the acting is spot on. As if this film wasn’t terrific enough, real footage of Dr. Alberto Granado is played over the end credits. He’s now over 80 years old and seems to still be as young at heart as the character de la Serna played in the film.
I think the most important aspect of this film is it’s truthfulness. There comes a time in every persons life when what they are meant to do is revealed to them. Be it becoming a plumber, filmmaker, baker or revolutionary, most everyone has this moment or sequence of events leading to their change into adulthood. Their destiny. “The Motorcycle Diaries” humanizes this moment and doesn’t really seek to point out that this was “Che Guevara’s moment.” Rather, it shows this moment as something we can all relate with.