By: Henry J. Fromage (Two Beers) –
Mexican actor extraordinaire Gael Garcia Bernal has his fingers in many, many pies, from acting to producing to directing in a wide range of genres, spanning Will Ferrell comedies like Casa de Mi Padre to challenging Indie fare like The Loneliest Planet. One particular, strangely specific genre has stood out the last few years- South American societal issues films. While I’m still waiting to get my paws on a copy of Even the Rain, No has managed to attract a lot more attention, including a Best Foreign Language Film nomination.
To the extent that qualifies as attracting attention…
No depicts the true story of late in brutal Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet’s reign, as he bows to international pressure and acquiesces to a democratic election. TV time devoted to the election is restricted to two 15 minute segments per day, ‘Yes’ and ‘No.’ Bernal plays a successful ad man asked to run the ‘No’ campaign. After reluctantly agreeing, he chooses a controversial tack- instead of focusing on the oppression and terror of Pinochet’s rule, he is convinced that a catchy, advertising-like campaign, complete with a ‘jingle’, is the way to motivate a jaded voting base. Will it be enough to even factor into a race even the people who hired him don’t think they can win?
No, somebody didn’t slip a shitty pirated copy of No into your DVD case.
Although they totally did that to your The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo DVD
That handheld, vintage 80s video look was a conscious decision by director Pablo Lorrain to drag the audience back to the 1980s setting of the story, and while jarring at first, it pays off well. It keeps things interesting, and the moments of rare beauty or the flashes of violence out o fa clear sky hit you that much harder. It also integrates the drama well with the copious mix of real and recreated commercials and the other stock footage used in the film.
No works as a satire of both advertising and political campaigns as well as a presentation of a historical event, and is consistently clever and amusing while also giving an “inside baseball” perspective on all of this. Bernal does a great job as the beating heart of the film, which culminates in a masterful shot of him pondering, “Now what?”
Well, that’s one option
The film is engrossing when it focuses on the campaign, but when it switches over to Bernal’s personal life, it’s much less so. These scenes with his son and baby mama (wife? ex-wife?, it’s a weird dynamic) flesh out his background, but ultimately feel like conventional filler material.
A fascinating true account of (probably) the only time advertising actually did accomplish something useful and positive.
Take a Drink: whenever you see a commercial
Take a Drink: whenever you see a TV
Take a Drink: whenever something is shown/referred to establishing this in the 80s
Do a Shot: whenever violence strikes out of nowhere