No; political drama, Chile / France / USA, 2012; D: Pablo Larraín, S: Gael García Bernal, Alfredo Castro, Luis Gnecco, Antonia Zegers
After 15 years of his rule, dictator Augusto Pinochet yields to international pressure and schedules a referendum in '88 which will allow citizens of Chile to decide if he should stay in power or resign. Rene is hired to create a TV spot for the "No" campaign, amidst the suspicion that the referendum will be rigged, anyway. He persuades the staff to conjure up a positive campaign, under the slogan "Chile, happiness is coming!" Both the "Yes" and "No" campaign will get 15 minutes each for their spots on TV. After the spots are broadcast and highly critical of Pinochet, Rene gets threats over the phone and thus leaves his child and his wife in another apartment. Finally, the plebiscite is held and the majority of people vote "No", ending Pinochet's rule.
One of the best movies of the decade, Pablo Larrain's "No" was critically recognized worldwide despite showing a local, confined historical event of a campaign on whether Augusto Pinochet should stay in power in Chile or not: the movie owns such a success mostly to the honest, quiet, subtle, simple and genuine direction as well as a restrained, authentic and unbelievably convincing performances by the actors, whose characters seem like real people and their small, "trivial" problems close and easily recognisable, equally as gripping as spectacular epics. Even more fascinating is that Larrain courageously dropped the HD digital cameras, went against the mainstream dogma and instead filmmed the entire story with the imperfect, grainy cameras of the 80s on magnetic tape, with deliberate errors (such as "over-illuminated" sources of light) thereby giving the story a highly authentic (and lively) feel. This is a dry political film, yet once the viewers get use to it, it manages to engage with ease, peculiarly melting the stale, conventional dialogues into something interesting, keeping the suspense of the outcome of the referendum until the end. One of its highlights are the wide array of comical TV spots for both "Yes" and "No" campaign: the "Yes" campaign predictably leans towards nationalism, "strength" and authority, scaring people with Communists and poverty if Pinochet is removed, even presenting an add with a steamroller flattening lamps and TV sets, threatening a child on the street, whereas the "No" campaign wants to be hip, cool, appeal towards the young and send a positive message — one of the best adds is when a poet opens his mouth and shows a "NO" paper sign on his tongue or when a woman gives a shrill speech: "For 15 years we had a dictatorship that started here (shows her butt), went over here (shows her forehead) and ends here (shows the palm of her hand with a "NO" paper sign on it)". Brilliant, concise, refreshingly relaxed and deliciously sympathetic, "No" is an excellent film that finds the right note and sticks with it.