In 1952, middle class medical students Ernesto Guevara (Gael Garcia Bernal) and Alberto Grenado (Rodrigo De la Serna) decide to take a break from their studies and embark on a transcontinental journey across South America on their trusty motorcycle. When they’re not taking a spill or being plagued with mechanical problems they are being awed by the wildly diverse landscape. In spite of the phenomenal geography however, it is who they meet along the way that leave a truly lasting impression upon the pair: they can not turn away from the continent’s disenfranchised, people who are either exploited or ignored and subsist on the fringe of society. The adventure of a lifetime slowly transforms into a journey of self-discovery.
A little faster and I can fly, I sure of it!
“Che” Guevara became a counterculture icon soon after he became involved in Castro’s movement to export the revolution in the 1960’s. An eloquent speaker, he abandoned a life of privilege to help people: his execution at the hands of the Bolivian Army only served to solidify his legendary status - indeed his picture still adorns dormitory rooms and t-shirts around the world. Yet few people know much about the “man behind the myth” or what motivated him to action.
Director Walter Salles realized that any attempt to define or demystify Che was pointless as he would simply be foisting his own interpretation upon viewers. Instead Salles chose to strip away any trace of ideology, and allow Guevara’s own journals to speak for him. Unfettered by politics, the audience is able to focus on the pair’s friendship, and their shared experiences as they struggle against both the elements and social conventions. A wise move on Salles’ part.
'Y Tu Mama Tambien’s Bernal is riveting as Guevara, delivering a carefully measured performance - even when expressing outrage he remains composed - and there is a sense of both compassion and charisma that shine through. Most importantly, he skillfully captures Guevara’s evolution - there is no instant epiphany, instead he develops a subtle, gradual awareness. De la Serna’s Grenado, meanwhile tends to eschew the more philosophical pursuits in favor of physical indulgence He exudes an earthy, laid back sensibility and a zest for life, and provides a delicate counterbalance for the duo. The pairs’ easy rapport bolsters the feel and flow of the film. The actors also know when to yield center stage.
Many directors try to use gorgeous scenery to distract audiences from a weak plot ('Seven Years in Tibet' comes to mind). Salles’ focus on the ever-changing landscape is inherent to the plot: while the vast windswept deserts and snow capped mountain ranges are beautiful to look at, they pose a constant challenge for Guevara and Grenao, which in turn leads them to a better understanding of the human condition and reevaluate what is important
While the film may be criticized for romanticizing the journey and the individuals, breathtaking cinematography, inspired storytelling and stand out performances are sure to draw in the crowds. Get your tickets early.