No (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner07/02/2013

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 115 mins

Pablo Larrain's follow-up to Tony Manero and Post-Mortem is an engaging, darkly funny political drama with a terrific central performance from Gael Garcia Bernal.

What's it all about?
Directed by Pablo Larrain, No is based on a play by Antonio Skármeta (itself loosely based on true events) and stars Gael Garcia Bernal as advertising executive Rene Saavedra, who's drafted in to head up the ‘No’ campaign in the 1988 referendum on the continuation of Pinochet's regime. Allocated just 15 minutes per night over the next 27 days (with the opposition allowed the entirety of the rest of the airtime), Rene sets about selling the No vote the same way he promotes soft drinks, soap operas and microwave ovens, with surprisingly positive results.

However, when Rene's boss Lucho Guzman (Alfredo Castro, star of both Tony Manero and Post-Mortem) is employed by the ‘Yes’ campaign, he tries to talk Rene into joining him and the two men end up in fierce competition, each trying to undermine the other. At the same time, Rene faces criticism from his left-wing activist ex-wife Veronica (Antonia Zegers, another Larrain regular), who believes that the referendum is just for show and that Rene is buying into Pinochet's deception.

The Good
Gael Garcia Bernal delivers a typically charming performance as the naïve but enthusiastic Rene, whose eyes are gradually opened to the realities of Chile's political situation. Alfredo Castro is equally good as Guzman (it's unsettling to see him in such a normal role after Tony Manero and Post-Mortem) and there's strong support from both Antonia Zegers and from Luis Gnecco as a socialist friend of Rene's exiled dissident father, who agrees to help with the campaign.

Larrain's boldest move is to shoot the entire film on vintage U-matic stock, exactly replicating the grainy, 1980s video look of the original TV broadcasts; this is initially distracting but makes perfect sense when combined with Larrain's use of archive footage, including some of the actual commercials of the time.

The Great
The script is shot through with dark humour (both verbal and visual) and there are a number of very funny running gags, such as Rene's penchant for using a mime artist in his commercials or an inspired series of scenes involving a microwave oven. In addition, the film draws a number of thought-provoking parallels between politics and advertising and the film builds towards a genuinely moving conclusion, which may surprise fans of Larrain's previous films.

Worth seeing?
No is an engaging and enjoyable Chilean drama with a blackly comic script and a terrific central performance from Gael Garcia Bernal. Recommended.

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Content updated: 23/10/2017 16:09

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