The Motorcycle Diaries

Directed by Walter Salles
Showing at FACT until 16th September

Reviewed by Colin Serjent

There is a problem with the title of this film in that most of the journey taken across Latin America in 1952 by Che Guevara (Gael Garcia Bernal) in his youth, together with his friend and companion Alberto Granado (Rodrigo de la Serna), is conducted not on a bike. After the Norton machine breaks down for good in Peru, after it had crashed a number of times, the rest of their adventures are carried out on foot, car, boat, etc.

Anyway this does not, to any degree, detract from what is a good film, but which is lacking in certain ways, particularly in not revealing to me any great insight into what made him become an revolutionary leader. He encountered poverty and exploitation of people throughout Latin America -the images of haunted faces of people desperately seeking work in a tin mine in order to eke out a living are very powerful -but that does not account for the his extreme change in philosophy, political fervour or revolutionary zeal.

One of the major plus points though was the often stunning landscapes captured in the film, notably the deep snow covering the mountains and dawn breaking out by a misty lake in Chile, soon after they left Argentina for the first time.

But the sometimes romanticised portrayal of Che - he is almost held up as a saint by the people living in wretched conditions in the leper colony, in which he works as a doctor - is a bit hard to accept.

This iconic figure will always be portrayed as being young and handsome - he will never age, unlike Granado, who is seen in real life in the final clip mournfully watching a plane leave a runway, in a similar way he saw his dear friend leave him at the end of their adventure, never to see him again.