MOVIE REVIEW | No (2012)


The best movies based on a true story are the ones that are a history lesson without ever feeling like a history lesson.  They’re compelling, entertaining, a little unbelievable…  And, you might just learn something along the way.  That is exactly what I got from No.

To avoid getting the specifics of history wrong and completely exposing my ignorance on this subject, I’ll paraphrase the preambling setup directly from the movie’s intro title cards…

“In 1973, Chile’s armed forces staged a coup against President Salvador Allende and General Augusto Pinochet took control of the government.  After 15 years of dictatorship, Pinochet faced increasing international pressure to legitimise his regime.  In July, 1988, the government called a referendum.  The people would vote YES or NO to keep Pinochet in power for another eight years.”

No focuses on Renee Saacedra, an ad man played by Gael Garcia Bernal.  You see, each side of the referendum argument has been given 15 minutes of television airtime each night in the 27 days leading up to the vote, and the supporters of “The No” have decided advertising is the key, not political grandstanding.  So, with Bernal on board, they begin a campaign to win hearts and minds through the promise of happiness.

In a story of persecution, mass abuses of power and corruption, it’s surprising that the relationship that stood out most to me was that between Bernal and his advertising agency boss played by Alfredo Castro.  Not far into the story, they are actively working for opposing sides of the life changing, history making referendum, while still working along side each other on frivolous ad campaigns for soft drink and soap operas.  While we see that Bernal’s character has a young son and complex relationship with his ex-wife, none of that seemed as personal or as interesting as his interactions with his boss.

Another interesting aspect of the story is the way the characters more and more refer to each side of the debate as “The Yes” and “The No” as the story goes on.  As voting day gets closer and each side’s propaganda gets more and more elaborate, “yes” and “no” become more than just words on a ballet paper.  They become “THE yes” and “THE no”, almost as if they’re living, breathing entities that hold the future of every Chilean in their hands.

Even though No was shot on video cameras from the period, not on film or modern digital, the format never leads to a cheap or nasty look.  Instead, it adds a real feeling of authenticity to the late 80s aesthetic, more than any costumes, haircuts or set dressing ever could.

While No is an important movie, in that it tackles a monumental part of recent history we should all be more aware of, it’s also a massively entertaining movie.  There’s no point in telling an important story if it’s not entertaining enough to keep the viewer’s interest.  No definitely does this stranger than fiction tale justice.

Directed By – Pablo Larrain
Written By – Pedro Peirano, Antonio Skarmeta

One thought on “MOVIE REVIEW | No (2012)

  1. We had the same fight with our own NO vote. There were heroes. There were protests. Latte’s were spilt but finally Noosa was freed and sockless men were able to parade up and down Hastings Street without persecution. I hope history will remember us just as kindly.

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