Starring Gael García Bernal and Alfredo Castro, Chilean director Pablo Larraín’s No (2012) offers an entertaining look at the way the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile was brought to an end in 1988 as a result of an opposition media campaign. Both personal and political, No sees Larraín delve into the life of Bernal’s Rene Saavedra, an ad executive who’s called upon by the ‘No’ campaign; a coalition of parties in opposition to Pinochet. Saavedra soon finds himself up against his regime-supporting boss Lucho Guzmán (Castro), as well as the ire of many of those at the heart of the No campaign on account of his views on the group’s message.
Whereas the coalition had been previously selling itself and pushing its oppositional stance to the backdrop of appalling images of savage violence and grieving citizens, Saavedra takes it upon himself to change the depressing tone to one of optimism and positivity, coining the slogan ‘Happiness is Coming’. What ensues is a tale that is universally intriguing, on account of both the subject at hand and its parallels with the political unease that has gripped a number of nations in recent times.
On just about every count, No succeeds in bringing forth a sublimely balanced, often funny, reflection on the trials and tribulations of a country on febrile territory, whilst also taking us into the personal realm of the film’s protagonist. Larraín has clearly researched the period down to the finest details, serving up an aesthetic of genuine authenticity in order to transport the viewer into the very heart of 1988 Chile. Archive footage is also blended with new material for the film with almost seamless results, adding even further to the authentic tone of the piece.
The cast of No are also on equally impressive for. Bernal’s turn as Saavedra is absolutely pitch-perfect, delivering the kind of deft, charismatic and multi-dimensional performance for which has become so widely acclaimed. Castro is also on notably fine form in his portrayal of Pinochet sympathiser Lucho. With the directorial vision of Larraín and a standout performance from leading man Bernal, No is well worth picking up on DVD if you missed it upon its original release.