This fictionalised tale of an ad man’s crusade to depose General Pinochet and the Chilean military Junta from power in 1988 via the medium of advertising and the people’s desire for change, in what came to be known as the ‘No’ Campaign. Directed by Pablo Larrain-who won the Directors award at Cannes and is up for the foreign directors award at this years Oscars- and featuring a humorous and convincing performance by Gael Garcia Bernal as advertising whizz kid, Rene Saavedra, who rides to work on his skateboard the film manages to add a light-hearted almost whimsical take on a very serious time whilst simultaneously affording the subject matter the integrity and gravitas it necessitates and deserves.
Many have commented on inaccuracies in the script- in reality the change was not brought about by an advertiser’s dream but circumstances far more involved and complicated- but such accusations are negligible as this is a film and not a documentary. It is however amusing to watch Bernal portray a Chilean version of Don Draper from TV’s Mad Men and his recognition that revolution is a product and as such it must be sold to the people as one.
Usage of the original ‘No’ Campaign ad footage shows rainbows, dancers and an innocuous theme song all of which adds up to a Coca Cola campaign which has been discarded but needs to be used anyway. It all makes light of the serious themes at the heart of this film which the grainy cinematography captures perfectly as the late eighties were a tough time for Chilean residents and change was necessary although at the time it seemed highly unlikely.
This film captures all of this and shows the hardships the campaign was up against as well as the subterfuge which threatened to bring it all crashing down as soon as the possibility of winning became a very likely reality.
No then is a totally worthwhile film in every sense of the word and Bernal proves himself an actor who can convincingly lead a film with a performance which ranks alongside his very best. Definitely one to watch out for at the Oscars although it is up against a strong cast in its category in what is proving to be an outstanding year for foreign movies.