- Director:Pablo Larraín
- Cast:Antonia Zegers , Alfredo Castro , Gael Garcia Bernal
- Release Date:April 18, 2013
- Running time:118 minutes
- Film Worth:$19.00
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A bitingly funny, fascinating and moving portrait of Pinochet’s fall that’s smartly shot and superbly performed.
In 1988, Chile held a national referendum to determine whether the people wanted Augusto Pinochet’s iron fist to continue ruling. As its title suggests, No focuses on the battle to oust the dictator, but it’s surprisingly told via the perspective of the advertising team drafted to convince people to vote against him. What evolves is a stinging and often hilarious satire of modern politics, but one that’s deeply humane and ultimately hopeful.
The maverick ad ace recruited to lead the “No” camp – who initially expect to lose, and at best “raise awareness” – is Rene (Gael Garcia Bernal), a politically apathetic young father who’s a whiz at selling soft drink. But Rene’s ideas for the campaign – each side has a fifteen-minute TV slot to make their case – unsurprisingly clash with the veterans of the movement. They want to fill these slots with lists of the disappeared, executions, and other transgressions of the regime. But to their dismay, Rene pushes a “nicer” agenda, involving cheesy videos of singing and dancing Chileans, sunshine and rainbows, and a catchy jingle. He’s selling happiness and freedom to the public, and they buy into it.
While one can hardly believe that these absurd slices of kitsch were crucial to Pinochet’s undoing, the real ads are used here, and director, Pablo Larrain, shoots the entire film on washed out old video so the whole experience feels seamless. But what really holds this film together is Bernal’s superb performance. Rene is originally pulled in by the pure marketing challenge, and only in having to “pitch” for democratic freedom does he come to understand what it means. It’s a compelling personal journey that climaxes in one of the most understated yet uplifting scenes that you’ll see all year.