Road movies provide screenwriters with a built-in structure. It allows them, in the immortal words of the Queen of Hearts, to “begin at the beginning, go on until you reach the end, and then stop!” But what happens when an ending isn’t really the end? Or when the “real” end sends us down a different road altogether?
The Motorcycle Diaries, directed by Brazilian Walter Salles (Central Station), re-creates an actual 1952 journey through South America made by two Argentineans—Alberto Granado (Rodrigo de la Serna), a 29-year-old biochemist, and Ernesto Guevara (Mexican star Gael Garcia Bernal), a 23-year-old medical student. The reason we care about this road trip 50 years later is that Ernesto became the revolutionary “Che” Guevara, who remains a poster boy for guerrilla movements worldwide. (When I was in college the famous Alberto Korda photo of Che was as popular in dorm rooms as posters of Steve McQueen and Jean-Paul Belmondo.)