Ashvegas movie review: No


Dreaming of revolution…and faster computers.
(Sony Pictures Classics)

The first detail that stands out in Pablo Larrain’s No and a pretty difficult one to escape is its appearance.  As opposed to the usual widescreen presentation, the director’s 1988-set film of Chile’s referendum of whether to keep dictator Augusto Pinochet in power is shot in 4:3 aspect ratio and on an old videotape recorder so that its boxy, lo-fi picture conveys what would have been shown on local television at the time.  The authenticity of this look in addition to era-appropriate clothing, cars, and props is a refreshing period approach and frankly more interesting than the crisp 18th century corset dramas that keep popping up.

No: the happiest negative.
(Sony Pictures Classics)

No centers on innovative advertising executive René Saavedra (Gael Garcia Bernal, in a vintage rattail) who’s recently returned to Chile after an unspecified time away.  René’s reentry gives him somewhat of an outsider status and that of a proxy for viewers likewise learning about the nation’s social struggles.  Approached by the “No” faction to help design their 15 minutes of daily air time in the month leading up to the big vote, René balks but begins to reconsider after witnessing the beating of his ex-wife Veronica (Antonio Zegers), an oft-arrested freedom fighter, at the hands of police. The brutal event is a fairly obvious turning point, but what makes No exceptional is that Larrain abstains from having René tell someone that his mind has changed and instead shows him subtly react to various news and images that slowly bring him around.

“They didn’t say ‘Trick or Treat,’ so they don’t get candy.”
(Sony Pictures Classics)

Likewise allowed to speak for themselves are each side’s respective  products, given star treatment in their conception, execution, and ultimate broadcast.  The results are especially (and expectedly) effective in the “No” campaign’s progress as Larrain captures the excitement and fear of what it must have been like to shoot these iconic and frequently comic scenes.  It’s therefore only fitting that the similarly expected governmental threats that follow are handled with a quiet, artistic menace.  As René’s house and preteen son Simon (Pascal Montero) are targeted, the Pinochet regime shows its true colors that, though accompanied by the opposition’s honest commentary, are effectively shown by actions alone.

Power to the little people!
(Sony Pictures Classics)

In addition to the grand political struggles is the fantastic drama of René working alongside his boss Lucho Guzman (Alfredo Castro) in their daily ad doings, sandwiched between their efforts to the opposite campaigns.  This extra dimension further grounds the film’s far-reaching cultural message and, in conjunction with its focus on happiness over fear, makes it a truly special work.  For viewers who waded through the depressing bog of Pinochet’s rise in Larrain’s 2012 film Post Mortem, the revolution is particularly sweet.  For the rest, No is an exceptional record of an exceptional time, and that’s more than enough.

Grade: A-

Rated R for language.

No is currently playing at the Carolina Cinemas on Hendersonville Rd.


Chris August 15, 2013 - 3:28 am

Blu Ray.

Chris August 14, 2013 - 5:34 am

One of my favorite films of the year so far.

Edwin Arnaudin August 14, 2013 - 8:48 am

It’s a good one. Did you see it theatrically or on DVD/Blu-ray?

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