After 15 years of a dictatorship Chilean Augusto Pinochet, due to international pressure, was allowing the people to vote in an upcoming plebiscite, an expression of the people’s will, as to whether they favored, voting ‘yes’ or not, voting ‘no’ as to if Pinchot should remain in office. There was no doubt, legally or not, that the majority of people would vote ‘yes’.
Director Pablo Larrain has made this docudrama regarding the election with a screenplay by Pedro Peirano based on a play by Antonio Skarmeta called “The Referendum” and retitled it “No”. Each side of the question had 15 minutes a day to run an ad on television for 27 straight days with most of the ‘no’ ads regulated to the late hours. Rene Saavedra (Gael Garcia Bernal) is a hot shot ad executive who is put in charge of the No vote and tackles it like he was selling a previous product he handled which was a soda called Free. He uses marketing for politics as most ad agencies use it to sell cars, vacation spots or anything that uses balloons, rainbows, kids, blue skies and, in this case a mime that is a running joke throughout the movie.
Rene is prime custodian of his son Simon (Pascal Montero) while his estranged, activist wife Veronica (Antonia Zegers) accuses him of working for the Pinochet regime. He is the son of an exiled Chilean dissident and Rene dresses in jeans to work and skate boards all over town. He also doesn’t hesitate to send his kid to bed so that he could play with Simon’s train set. It is an old friend of his father’s, socialist politician Urrutia (Luis Gnecco) who talks Rene into taking the ad campaign while Rene’s boss Lucho Guzman (Alfredo Castro) takes the opposing campaign.
While it may have been in keeping with the time I found the direction, camerawork and editing to be very distracting, in some spots amateurish, and didn’t really add anything to the film.
Gael Garcia Bernal has a very interesting face, penetrating eyes and, if you have seen him in any other film, you know he is a fine actor who needs that breakout role but this isn’t it.
After watching “No” for an hour and fifty-eight minutes I have to get corny and end with say no to “No”.