Playful where it could have been oh-so-portentous, The Motorcycle Diaries is a road movie that travels lightly, despite being about the political coming-of-age of Third World revolutionary Ernesto `Ché' Guevara. It's the making of a man rather than a myth that helmer Walter Salles captures, playing up the boozing, birding and vehicular mishaps of his young hero's journey across Latin America.
Gael García Bernal is brilliant, showing a tender charisma in contrast to his predatory sexual scheming in Bad Education (reviewed on page 124). Rodrigo De La Serna also excels as Ché's buddy Alberto Granado, his affability offsetting Ché's idealism, the pair forging an easy, infectious rapport that loads up with laughs and steers away from schmaltz. Only towards the end does the symbolism start to ripen with Ché's piranha-braving swim, but the sequence is based in fact and the leper-colony sojourn also proves affecting and inspiring. Does it soft-soap a future killer? Possibly, but we can look forward to Steven Soderbergh's Benicio Del Toro-starring biopic filling in the bloody blanks.