The Motorcycle Diaries Movie Poster Image

The Motorcycle Diaries

(i)

 

Subtly political biopic won't interest most teens.
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2004
  • Running Time: 128 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages
Not applicable
Violence

None, except for a near-brawl, avoided by the fleeing heroes.

Sex

Nothing really shown, but much-discussed (including a heavily-coded negotiation with a prostitute).

Language

Some very raw language.

Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Social drinking, one supporting character gets drunk.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this movie has some social drinking, strong language, and discussions of a sexual nature. This is a biopic of the early life of future Communist guerilla leader Ernesto "Che" Guevara, but impressionable youths aren't too likely to convert to Marxism solely by watching -- if they're interested at all (unless your kids have a deep interest in the subject already or love polishing up their Spanish-language skills, they probably won't have much interest).

What's the story?

This leisurely drama follows a real-life 1952 road trip by two young men across South America. One of them, Ernesto Guevara de la Serna, will later become a Communist revolutionary and Fidel Castro cohort nicknamed "Che." Ernesto (Gael Garcia Bernal) is a 23-year-old medical student from a privileged Buenos Aries background who joins pal Alberto (Rodrigo de la Serna) for a four-month tour of South America to celebrate Alberto's 30th birthday and give Ernesto some time with his girlfriend. They ride on Alberto's 1939 motorbike. In Chile the vehicle conks out for good, and Ernesto's girlfriend breaks up with him via letter. The pair now hike overland, finding shelter and trying to keep to their itinerary, which ends with a humanitarian visit to a leprosy clinic. There's no hokey stroke-of-lightning moment when Ernesto realizes his destiny, just little incidents in which the pair witness injustice, usually against the native Indians, the poor, or anyone opposing corporations or landowners. Alberto is mostly into scamming and chasing girls, but an epilogue explains that his trip with the future Che changed Alberto's life forever. (THE MOTORCYCLE DIARIES is based closely on both Alberto's memoirs and Ernesto's journal.)

Is it any good?

QUALITY

This is a very subtle, realistic film (Marxism and the United States are barely mentioned) compared to the hysterical propaganda pieces that came out of the former USSR, or even the U.S. Indeed, if these were two fictional characters you'd think it was just a well-acted, rather shapeless road-movie about friendship and Latin America in the 1950s. We doubt impressionable youth will convert to Castroism solely by watching, without additional reinforcement, although the moviemakers certainly find Ernesto deeply admirable from the get-go. Unlike Alberto, Ernesto tells the truth even when it hurts, and shows innate compassion for the downtrodden. And who could argue with that? (Many Americans regard Che and his comrades as terrorists and critics of the movie have compared the Communists to the Nazis)

The Motorcycle Diaries stars some of the top Latin-American actors and lists Robert Redford as the executive producer. For young viewers, however, unless they've got a deep interest in the subject already, or love polishing up their Spanish-language skills, this journey might seem longer than Frodo and Samwise walking to Mount Doom.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about Ernesto's values and idealism, and the adage "One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter."

Movie details

Theatrical release date:September 24, 2004
DVD/Streaming release date:February 15, 2005
Cast:Gael Garcia Bernal, Mercedes Moran, Rodrigo De la Serna
Director:Walter Salles
Studio:Focus Features
Genre:Drama
Run time:128 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:language

This review of The Motorcycle Diaries was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

About Our Rating System

The age displayed for each title is the minimum one for which it's developmentally appropriate. We recently updated all of our reviews to show only this age, rather than the multi-color "slider." Get more information about our ratings.

Great handpicked alternatives

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Adult Written byLGviking April 9, 2008

VERY worthwhile

Most Americans know very little of Che Guevara. We took our 4 kids (10-14) to see Motorcycle Diaries. My only caution to parents is that the "f" word appears with frequency in the subtitles (the spoken language is Spanish) but these are two 20-something guys out on the trip of a lifetime around South America, on a really old ratty motorcycle which breaks down a lot (much of the swearing has to do with this!). Che and his companion witness the plight of the poor across the continent and you see how and why Che's growing outrage at the lack of social justice will lead him, after the conclusion of the film, to dedicate himself to changing the world and giving a voice to the downtrodden. Excellent, excellent, excellent, especially for young teens. Our 10 and 11 year old probably didn't get as much but it was still not a waste of time for them. We need to give our children more to think about than themselves. Take your children and enjoy!
Teen, 17 years old Written bytluap2 April 9, 2008

Intresting

I watched this movie in my spanish class and thought it was really good. They do swear alot but since it is in spanish you can't tell unless you have the subtitles on. One scence is really grusome were they are opperating and taking a women's arm off (due to lepracy). Thats the only part I had to shy away from.
Teen, 15 years old Written bymoviegeek April 9, 2008

Excellent

I really enjoyed the movie and thought it was filmed very well. The only thing that was slightly annoying was the length. I don't know the exact length of the movie, but it felt like forever. Make sure you're sitting somewhere comfortable when you're watching it! Younger children probably wouldn't be interested.

Poll

Did our review help you make an informed decision about this product?