Fascination street

“The Motorcycle Diaries”

Focus Features

Directed by Walter Salles

Screenplay by Jose Rivera

Starring Gael Garcia Bernal, Rodrigo De la SernaRated R/ 128 MinutesNow showing an exclusive engagement at the Broadway Theatre

Three and a half out of five stars

Ch Guevara is hard to escape in pop culture today. His image can be seen plastered on T-shirts, posters and communist enclaves all around the country. It seems, though, that Ch’s pop-fan club really doesn’t know that much about him other than his revolutionary statu s (and hipster appeal).

Ask about Guevara’s fight to bring socialism to Cuba or his revolutionary movements in South America and people will scratch their heads or possibly spout some Rage Against the Machine inspired pseudo-diatribe.

“The Motorcycle Diaries” follows the adventures of a young Ch, when he was still known as Ernesto. The film had a chance at revealing the character of Guevara to the world, but instead it shies away from the complex man and focuses more on basic themes of friendship, adventure, and subtle hints of self-awakening.

Medical student buddies Ernesto Guevara (Gael Garcia Bernal, from “Y Tu Mama Tambien”) and Alberto Granado (Rodrigo De la Serna) are nearing the completion of their studies in Argentina. Before they settle into the world of medicine, the 23-year-old Ernesto and 29-year-old Alberto decide to take a 12,000 km-plus journey through South America on a clunker-of-a-motorcycle called “the Mighty One.” Their destination is a leper colony in Peru where they will serve a medical residency.

On their journey, they encounter the usual road-trip movie situations: vehicle problems, going after the local women, lodging inadequacies. The first half of the movie is more lighthearted and casual; the bond between Ernesto and Alberto forms while the stunning, diverse South American scenery provides the backdrop.

Guevara’s thoughts are conveyed through his letters to his mother. His political leanings, though generally reserved and thoughtful, are brought to light through this correspondence.

As their trip continues, the two young men seem to become more in tune with humanity and the plight of those who have been tossed aside and forgotten. A particularly revealing moment in the myth of Guevara is when a downtrodden husband and wife cross paths with the young adventurers. The couple was kicked out of their town for being Communist sympathizers, and they struggle to find work. This quiet scene in the desert has a profound impact on the two, especially Ernesto.

Bernal does a fine job as the young, brutally idealistic Ernesto. He is able to capture the burning intensity beneath the gaze always identified with Guevara. The real treat is watching Rodrigo De la Serna by Bernal’s side as the spontaneous spark plug Alberto. He is the brash improviser, the showman of the duo, playfully prodding Ernesto into action while adding lighthearted comic relief.

As the young mens’ adventure wheels into its final turn, a realization can be seen, but there was no singular magical moment in which truth was found. It all fits with the refreshingly understated nature of the film, from its soundtrack to its storyline. As the thoughtful young Ernesto says in the film, it is a story “about two lives that ran parallel for a time,” nothing too grand or amazing, but a tale about life.

Though not the politically charged film some may have expected it to be, “The Motorcycle Diaries” is a fine example of a road movie. The fact is, even with the celebrity and hype of Ch Guevara taken away, this movie can stand on its own as a story of companionship, self-revelation and adventure.

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