Chilean filmmaker Pablo Larraín wraps his story of revolutionary poet Pablo Neruda within a fictional narrative. The approach is sadly unsuccessful

Film Review by Josh Slater-Williams | 16 Feb 2017
Film title: Neruda
Director: Pablo Larraín
Starring: Gael García Bernal, Luis Gnecco, Alfredo Castro, Pablo Derqui, Mercedes Morán, Emilio Gutiérrez Caba
Release date: 7 Apr
Certificate: 15

Neruda, Pablo Larraín’s third film in the space of two years, is in some ways a blending of the modes of his prior Chilean filmography and his ostensibly different American debut Jackie. While Jackie’s break from political biopic convention was largely to do with a fractured structure, Neruda does so by establishing a fictional figure and narrative to intertwine with the story of revolutionary poet Pablo Neruda (Luis Gnecco)’s life after the Chilean government outlawed Communism in 1948. 

It’s an approach that is sadly unsuccessful. Up to a specific point, it’s not necessarily the fault of the fictional flourishes. Gael García Bernal’s meta-textual narrative as a hardboiled detective chasing Neruda, complete with noir-influenced imagery and dialogue, has a playfulness in aesthetic lacking from the main biopic plot. But a third act twist regarding the stylistic device, in which the two storylines converge in a bold but deflating way, only serves to demonstrate that Neruda himself is obscured by Larraín’s vision’s level of investment in specificity – too much of myth than of a man.

Neruda screens at Glasgow Film Festival: 17 Feb, GFT, 5.15pm | 21 Feb, GFT, 1.25pm

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