Gael García Bernal stars in Walter Salles' 2004 Diarios de Motocicleta ("Motorcycle Diaries"), the biopic of Ernesto 'Che' Guevara's memoir's during the summer of his 23rd year (1952). During this trip, Guevara motorcycled across South America with his friend Alberto Granado (Rodrigo De la Serna) who's main goal through this journey is to see as much of Latin America as he was able to before his 30th birthday.
For backstory, Guevara is a semester away from graduating medical school. He and Granado both know that the future is looming and this may be their last chance to do something "selfish" or "out-there." This is noted almost immediately, when Guevara's father takes the youth aside and tells him that he's jealous and regrets not doing anything like this during his life.
The film is almost a tale of two movies. The first half deals with two men enjoying themselves on the open road. They are the focus of the film. Guevara's love interests, Granado's wacky antics all come to the forefront as we see a great deal of character development at the on-set of the film. However, once the duo journey's to Chile, where they encounter a poor mining couple, the film becomes more about social injustice and poverty throughout Latin America.
The rest of the film is truly moving. Guevara's demeanor makes a 180-degree turn, as the focus changes from our main characters to the side characters they meet throughout their journeys. The mining couple was the spark, but the full change comes when they reach Peru. While there, Guevara and Grenado work at a leper community. During their three weeks (as told during a speech by the director of the community), Guevara repeatedly breaks the community's 'rules' about interacting with the lepers. During one of the most moving scenes of the film, Guevara's words and actions result in a soccer game between the medical staff and the lepers... though, initially, they were not allowed to touch each other without wearing full body protection.
The film ends with Guevara and Grenado going their separate ways. Grenado has been offered a residency program where he can finally "settle down" by getting a "job and a girlfriend," as Guevara states. Guevara tells him, before departing back to Buenas Ares, that he's not the same person and something has changed inside him. Obviously, the movie need-not go into detail, as history tells us what exactly has changed inside Guevara as he becomes one of the most influential people in world history during the remain years of his life and beyond.
Overall, my lack of initial research left me in the dark for the beginning part of the film. I didn't realize that Motorcycle Diaries was a biopic about Che Guevara until much later in the film when words like "communist," "social injustice," and "revolution" were being discussed by Guevara. Whether or not you realize the premise of the film, it was really good. I highly recommend it to anyone who's interested in biopics or quality foreign films, period.