After Tony Manero and Post Mortem assayed General Pinochet’s dictatorship through the lenses of discomforting murder drama and icy satire respectively, Pablo Larraín’s take on Chile’s oppressive past adopts a different approach. With No, Larraín practices what the film’s protagonist - advertising wunderkind René Saavedra (Bernal) - preaches: to bring a political message to the masses, you have to seduce them.
It tackles a pivotal moment in Pinochet’s rule, the 1988 plebiscite that would ultimately force out his military-backed government, in unabashedly entertaining fashion, mirroring the way its characters formulate their anti-authoritarian media campaign in crowd-pleasing fashion. Larraín evokes the era smartly, with telling period detail and an artfully dated visual style, to create a backdrop for the film’s triumph-of-the-underdog narrative. But just as Saavedra’s appropriation of advertising grammar serves a political end, No’s surface conventionality sweetens a subversive core, which shows through most clearly in its downbeat coda. [Chris Buckle]