Any movie that makes you want to Google all the information mentioned in it while you’re watching said movie has got something going for it. “No” has that something in spades. This film is an utterly fascinating look at the melding of politics and advertising and is immediately relatable to anyone living in a country where elections occur.
Based on Antonio Skármeta‘s play, directed by Pablo Larraín with screenplay by Pedro Peirano, “No” is the fictional account of the plebiscite that took place in 1988 Chile, when military dictator, General Augusto Pinochet, ruled the country.
In the real world, Pinochet calls for an up or down vote on his power—Vote “Sí ” to keep him in office; vote “No” for a new democratic regime. In the fictional world, Gael García Bernal plays the fictional character, René Saavedra, an advertising whiz kid hired to bring new ideas to the No campaign in the hopes of turning the cards stacked against it into a winning hand. In working for No, Saavedra puts his family in jeopardy and ends up being pitted against his day job boss, Luis (Alfredo Castro), who is working on behalf of Pinochet’s Sí campaign. Bernal is terrific at portraying the concerned father and hot-shot ad man.
I use the words, real and fictional, on purpose because “No” is so well shot and executed that it is difficult to tell truth from reality. Is that an actor portraying Pinochet or is that Pinochet himself masterfully edited into key scenes? Actual campaign footage with Jane Fonda and Richard Dreyfuss is expertly intercut with the fictional aspects of the story. In addition, the advertising scenes are spot on. Watching the creation of “Happiness is coming” campaign will resonate with anyone engaged in advertising…or viewers of “Mad Men”, for that matter.
Fans of “Game Change” (the book or HBO movie), “Recount,” “The Making of the President” or “The Selling of the President” should run, not walk, to “No.” Regardless of your politics, you’ll find it’s one of the best political movies of all time.