In 1988 the Chilean President, Pinochet, was pressured at an international level to host a plebiscite to determine whether or not he would remain in power until 1997. The country was given the chance to either vote ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ to this question. With only 27 days to campaign, each side was given 15 minutes per night to present their point of view on television. The savvy No campaign looked to advertising employee René Saavedra (Gael García Bernal), to help head their campaign against Pinochet. Told from Saavedra’s point of view, NO highlights his terror of going against an established regime along with facing personal struggles of a single parent.
One of the great things about this film is how it was shot; the filmmakers used a technique to make the picture have an aged hue giving the viewer an impression of seeing a home video shot in that era. The grainy, yellow-orange texture adds to the authentic feeling of seeing history come to life. The accurate attention to set design and costuming details from Chile in the late ’80’s equaled perfection. The sweaters, stone washed jeans, walkman and other pop-culture references enhanced the flick based on this true story. The happy and positive stance adopted by the No vote was an interesting tactic to watch come to life. I guarantee the easy yet catchy jingle “Chile, la alegría ya viene!” will be stuck in your head long after watching NO.
Gael García Bernal’s subtle and subdued performance is exactly what the film needed; even if it was reminiscent to his work in THE MOTORCYCLE DIARIES. He is firm in his beliefs and even when Saavedra disagrees with his No campaign compadres, his passionate arguments are played out with a quiet edge . The emotional pain he experiences with his human rights activist ex-wife (Antonia Zegers) adds to Bernal’s portrayal of Saavedra.
Having experienced firsthand life in a country led by a dictator in 1980‘s South America, I only saw the peace and safety that was provided to the nation and was blind to the fate of those who spoke against the ruler. Seeing Chileans become more sympathetic to the No campaign while struggling with the uncertainty and fear as to what will happen to the governing regime they have been accustomed to for the past 15 years was an interesting point of view. One that I never truly considered as even now, my family talks fondly of the days when the dictator ruled the country and life was stable and safe.
My biggest complaint about NO would be the dangers that Saavedra, his son and the others working against the Yes campaign never felt very… dangerous. Viewers could barely taste the tension of being followed, homes being targeted and family members threatened. It felt like more could have been done to highlight the valid paranoia of going against an established military based government.
If it weren’t for the language (a few f-bombs are dropped in the translated subtitles), I would recommend this film to history and Spanish classes to see the effects of living in a dictator run society.
Video (1.37:1): As described above, NO begins and ends with a perfectly grainy texture that adds to the viewing experience.
Audio (DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1): The audio was sharp and clear allowing audiences to enjoy the whispers of the committee planning against the Yes campaign.
Audio Commentary: Actor Gael García Bernal and director Pablo Larraín provide a fantastic audio commentary in English. If you enjoyed the film you will feel the same about the commentary.
Q&A with Gael García Bernal (12:47): Bernal answers audience questions about the film including how it was received in Chile. I found this to be interesting but boring at once.