Pablo Larraín’s No is a thoroughly engaging drama that attempts a sense of verisimilitude throughout.
In 1988, Chile’s military dictator Augusto Pinochet calls for a referendum to decide whether he would continue his rule. Leaders of the opposition ask advertising executive René Saavedra to head their ‘No’ campaign. Under the scrutiny of Pinochet’s watchmen, Saavedra attempts to pull off a successful campaign…
With No, Pablo Larraín tells the story of the Chilean national plebiscite of 1988 dominantly through a personal tale. Saavedra is an interesting protagonist to view events through. He strikes something of a balance in terms of outlook compared to other characters in the film. The sense of ambivalence at the end of No is striking.
Larraín’s film is based on real events, and the director tries to keep true to this. Real footage from the time of the plebiscite is interspersed with filmed scenes. The look of the film gives a particular quality which is in keeping with the late 1980s setting. The camera work is fluid, giving the impression of a documentary rather than a fictional drama.
The period setting is further heightened by the styling. The 1988 setting is unmistakable in terms of clothes, products and advertising. It was particularly important that the filmmakers got this aspect correct, with the focus on a television advertising campaign. Gael García Bernal delivers an able performance as protagonist Saavedra. The supporting is also good.
No slacks in pace on the rare occasion, but overall is a worthwhile and rewarding watch.