Original and utterly engrossing, “No” follows the 1988 campaign to extend the rule of General Pinochet’s regime in Chile. It’s fiction rather than documentary, but it feels real and keeps you on the edge of your seat, even if you know the history.
There is as much here for those who know every detail as for those who are new to Chile’s modern events.
It’t the third film in a trilogy. “Post Morten” (2010) and “Tony Manero” (2008) stand alone, but director Pablo Larrain – from a political family – chooses the original plot line of following the people who made the advertising for the “No” side.
Chileans voted either “yes” or “no” on whether to keep Pinochet in power.
Larrain uses a 1983 U-matic camera, which means the real clips fit in neatly with the look of the new filmed material.
Gael Garcia Bernal may be Mexican, but you forget that as he leads an all-Chilean group of amazing actors. Larrain’s wife Antonia Zegers is deeply affecting. Comic actor Luis Gnecco – he plays the Ricky Gervase part in Chile’s version of “The Office” – shows off his knack with serious work here. And fans of Larrain regular Alfredo Castro will be pleased to see him in a key role here too.
The look of offices, clothing and hair is beautifully realised. Fluffy hair! Big shoulders! It all adds lovely comic touches to a serious tale.
And there is a magical restraint here, with the advertising people mostly kept in small rooms watching big screens. The outside scenes may feature the ocean and skateboards, but everything works together to make the viewer feel contained and small, until the last scenes.
It could so easily have been dull and worthy, but even the platitudes of political slogans entertain and move you. You feel you are watching the advertising and the results, alongside the people of Chile.
A nice touch is having some of the main protagonists acting in the film.
Just in case you don’t know, Pinochet led a military coup that deposed the elected government of Allende on September 11th 1973.
Stratford East Picturehouse was absolutely packed and completely silent. It’s fairly long, at 118 minutes, but never flags at all. Even if you need the subtitles, it’s very funny and moves right along. What a wonderful achievement this super movie is.