Directed by: Pablo Larrain
Starring: Gael Garcia Barnel, Alfredo Castro, Luis Gnecco, Antonia Zegers
Running time: 118 minutes
In 1988, Chile was divided by two referendum campaigns—the “yes” camp, which aimed to keep Augusto Pinochet in power, and the “no” camp, which aimed to to kick him out. Director Pablo Larrain’s film chronicles the true effort of the latter group, who, against all odds, succeeded in deposing the dictator of fifteen years.
“No” was a 2012 festival darling, securing a spot at Cannes, Sundance and Telluride, among others, in addition to its recent Oscar nomination. For those of you who automatically equate “film festival entrant” with “slow–paced, depressing indie drama,” hold your judgment. “No” mesmerizes its audience immediately, whether or not it has a background in South American history. Gael Garcia Bernal stars as Rene Saavedra, an ad exec who makes his living off of highly commercial, Americanized campaigns—ironic on multiple levels, considering each is presented as capturing the new spirit of Chilean youth—and whose father was a radical leftist. As the film goes on, Saavedra’s transformation from a politically apathetic professional into the driving force behind the whole campaign is played with such delicate intensity by Bernal that the performance alone is worth the price of admission.
Perhaps the biggest criticism of “No” is that it is shot entirely on an ‘80s-era U-matic camera. For some, this makes the experience of the film all the more authentic. For others, it initially might make the film seem like a low–budget art piece, like a self–important version of the “Blair Witch Project.” Both sides have fair points. The way Larrain weaves archival footage of the actual campaign into his film, though, is seamless.
It is no exaggeration to say that nearly the entire theatre walked out of “No” humming Saavedra’s campaign jingle. And that’s the point, isn’t it? “No” affects viewers quietly, subtly, as they remember the rainbow featured in each ad or think of Saavedra’s son’s toy trains. It’s hard not to be swept up in the emotion of such a true victory.
Our Grade: A-
If you liked this see: “Che” (2008)