After the dour Tony Manero and the downright depressing Post Mortem, Chilean writer-director Pablo Larrain once again delves into his country's past for a story. This time, however, No finds Larrain in chirpier mood for an election campaign drama that's based on a true story.
n 1988, international pressure encourages Pinochet's dictatorship to open a referendum, asking the Chilean population to vote to continue the dictatorship (Yes) or usher in a new era of democracy (No). The leader of the opposition coalition (Gnecco) approaches advertising whizz René (Garcia Bernal) to dream up an unexpected angle for the No campaign. Hardened by fifteen years of oppression, some of the coalition, and René's hardcore radical ex-wife (Zegers), want René's campaign to centre on the regime's brutality but he opts for something cuddlier...
eaving the writing duties this time to Pedro Peirano, adapting Antonio Skarmata's play, No is a warmer and funnier outing from Larrain: it's filled with odd scenes like discussing what the dictator could do to get his people to like him, there's a running joke involving a mime and there's the appearance of Hollywood celebs, including Richard Dreyfus who was then promoting his own Pinochet satire Moon Over Parador, encouraging Chileans to vote.
ut while its humour is a slow burner, what strikes you immediately is the distinct style. Shot like a low grade cheesy amateur 80s home video (blurry lights, shaky camera), No's ugliness is deliberate, not only matching the political shenanigans of both sides, it segues easily into episodes of archive footage of actual political broadcasts that dot the movie. It's so jarring at first, however, it may kill chances of getting into the riveting story.
arcia Bernal is charismatic in the lead role and while Alfredo Castro, usually Larrain's leading man, takes the backseat here but he's as slimy as ever as René's boss and, later, his rival when he takes over the campaign for the Yes side.
he ugly style takes a little getting used to but once you do No is a delight.