Star rating - 8/10
Director Pablo Larrain's last film, Post Mortem, was a strange offering with the backdrop of the brutal 1973 military coup in Chile that overthrew the socialist Government of Salvador Allende. And he again chooses the political history of Chile as the follow up piece with No, which is the story of the end of the Pinochet dictatorship after fifteen years in power.
This film is altogether more successful at making its impact felt. The downfall of the regime is masterminded by an unlikely character, advertising executive René Saavedra, played by Gael García Bernal. In order to win over the international community, Pinochet calls a referendum to allow him to stay in power for a further eight years. Everyone assumes the result will be a foregone conclusion, including the campaigners who initially approach Saavedra to run their advertising campaign. He has other ideas, but instead of highlighting the brutality of the Pinochet dictatorship, he wants to run a positive campaign about a brighter future for Chile, which feels a bit like an advert for Coca Cola.
His boss at the agency, played by Alfredo Castro, who also appeared in Larrain's last film, is spearheading the official Yes campaign, making for some good moments of dramatic tension between the two. And of course the military and police are used to try to frighten and disrupt the growing opposition. García Bernal is totally convincing, as ever, as the young advertising man with a winning strategy, who has to overcome opposition from within his own camp to put his plan into action.
And the action is interspersed with news footage of actual events of the time. These are cleverly interwoven with the dramatic action, which is shot in the same eighties colour palette, giving an air of real authenticity to the piece. This engrossing film raises important questions about the political power of images, and the importance of a campaign strategy that delivers a message that people want to believe in.