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No (Gael Garcia Bernal) - DVD Review

No

Review by Louise Carleton

IndieLondon Rating: 3.5 out of 5

NO is the culmination of Chilean director Pablo Larrain’s trilogy examining the dark rule of one of South America’s most feared dictators; General Pinochet.

It started in 2008 with Tony Manero, Larrain’s exploration of the dictatorship at its most ‘violent moment.’ Next came Post Mortem with Larrain looking back to the origins and beginnings of Pinochet’s rise to power and finally it finishes with No, a film that focuses on the final days of Pinochet and the advertising campaign that helped topple his regime of brutality.

The year is 1988 and with increasing pressure from the United States and the rest of the world, Pinochet is forced to call a referendum on his presidency, a rule which has lasted 15 years and has been laced with brutal acts of murder, torture, exile and false imprisonment.

Each party is granted the chance to create an advertising campaign to be shown for 15 minutes in order to convince the country to vote either ‘yes’ (to keep Pinochet in) or ‘no’ (to re-elect a new party) come election day.

The opposition party, led by Urrutia (Luis Gnecco), knows who they want to lead their campaign; the young, brash advertising executive recently returned from exile in Mexico, René Saavedra (Gael Garcia Bernal), a man who oozes charm and charisma.

Saavedra agrees to help Urrutia’s campaign, despite the huge rift it will create between himself and his boss (played by Alfredo Castro); a staunch Pinochet supporter who is lending his own advertising experience to Pinochet’s corner.

Saavedra is more apt at producing American-style commercials, full of fun, hype and with a big emphasis on getting the consumer to part with their cash; so when Saavedra is pitched the opposition campaign’s original idea he’s horrified to find it’s entirely made up of disturbing clips and unsettling statistics that highlight the horrors of Pinochet’s rule.

Saavedra argues the aggressive footage will do nothing but serve as a reminder to the Chilean people just how much they have suffered. Despite his own intimate knowledge of just how violent the state can be (his estranged wife is a political demonstrator and is often beaten and detained by the police during protests), he argues the campaign needs to focus on the future.

He believes that reminding voters of the horrors of the past will do nothing but scare them away; instead the campaign needs to instil hope and happiness for the future.

With this in mind Saavedra creates a bold campaign that employs a series of commercials full of joy, optimism and promise of better times ahead.

Familiar Hollywood faces lend their support to the cause and a catchy jingle consisting of the lines ‘Chile, happiness is coming’ runs throughout the adverts until it becomes firmly ingrained in the voters’ (and audience’s) psyche.

Yet as the campaign progresses the pressure increases for Saavedra and his team; they find themselves being watched, then followed, and finally Saavedra himself is the victim of a frightening break-in that threatens the safety and security of his young son.

Despite these concerns and the dangers ahead Saavedra and his team refuse to be intimidated; instead they rally together in their fight to help their fellow Chilean’s vote freely without fear.

As usual Bernal gives an award-winning performance. With expert craft he shows the inner turmoil of Saavedra who experiences something of a political awakening as his work progresses. The result is a believable and sympathetic character of substance.

Alfredo Castro also makes a good appearance whose far right character works well in opposition to Bernal’s liberal Saavedra.

But in spite of the well-crafted characters the film takes a while to find its footing and convey its message. Despite being littered with some great moments of cinematography there are unfortunately a few weak links.

This aside, the film remains highly entertaining throughout and also gets our recommendation as an important lesson in history.

In Spanish, with subtitles

Certificate: 15
Running time: 118mins
UK Blu-ray & DVD Release: June 17, 2013