"Back off, man. I'm a scientist.”

Review: No

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Director: Pablo Larraín
Writer: Pedro Peirano
Starring: Gael Garcia Bernal, Alfredo Castro, Nestor Cantillana, Antonia Zegers, Luis Gnecco, Alejandro Goic

Synopsis: During Chile’s 1988 referendum the Government implemented two advertising campaigns for a new election. It included a “Yes” and “No” cause for Augusto Pinochet. No focuses on the “No” campaign and one young advertising executive, René Saavedra (Bernal), and his method and work towards defeating Pinochet.

No may be a relatively small film – with low production costs and no star-studded cast – but it makes an assured impression. Tonally it’s quite unique, becoming a quaint political thriller/drama (not your average description of that type of genre). However, the stand-out feature of the film is arguably its aesthetic – filmed with a U-Matic and looking incredibly old-school, No looks so different to the RED or 2K A-grade cameras of today that it immediately grabs your attention.

The seemingly archaic aesthetic, laced with blurred lines and crackly pixels, is jarring at first. Once your eyes adjust to the HD-free cinematography the style does, in fact, become unnoticeable and perfectly fitting for the capturing of the era and events.

Much like the advertising agenda of the film, No is very clever at hitting all the right notes in order for it to get noticed. First off, the lead actor, Gael Garcia Bernal, has a fantastic screen presence who perfectly embodies the everyman hero. Watching as he controls the advertising campaign (experiencing comedy, peril and romance along the way) is fascinating, more so due to the character being a young man in the company of tired, old officials. Under the circumstances of taking on an established power figure, Bernal’s character does find himself on the wrong paths; these scenes are particularly tense sandwiched between dialogue-heavy or (contrasting) comic moments. The aforementioned scenes of heavy dialogue are the only drawback to the film, leaving the No to drag in certain places where action and rumination are mismatched in the narrative’s arrangement.

The light-hearted nature of No will be one helpful factor in generating a wider audience (along with its Oscar nomination). The theme song created for the “No” campaign will inevitably get stuck in your head for weeks and the general “kill them with kindness” efforts of the adverts shown will additionally remain memorable. Those not particularly interested in politics should be able to find something in No, whether it be the humour or the execution of the campaign. Because of what No aims to show you and the level of strangeness in the “No” operation, it becomes a striking film deserving of audiences and accolades.
****

No is in UK cinemas from 8th February.