You will be redirected back to your article in seconds


After "Tony Manero" and "Post Mortem," his devastating portraits of the Pinochet regime, Chilean helmer Pablo Larrain satisfyingly completes the trilogy with an affirmative victory for democracy in "No."

With: Gael Garcia Bernal, Alfredo Castro, Luis Gnecco, Antonia Zegers, Marcial Tagle, Nestor Cantillana, Jaime Vadell, Pascal Montero, Jose Manuel Salcedo, Enrique Garcia. (Spanish dialogue)

After “Tony Manero” and “Post Mortem,” his devastating portraits of how the Pinochet regime psychologically brutalized the people of Chile from 1973-90, Chilean helmer Pablo Larrain satisfyingly completes the trilogy with an affirmative victory for democracy in “No.” Tense throughout, even for history-savvy auds, but still rich in the sort of Andean-soil-black humor that made Larrain’s previous work so distinctive, the pic stars Gael Garcia Bernal as an adman who helps the opposition fashion a campaign to get people to vote against keeping Pinochet in power in a 1988 referendum. Result will get plenty of yes votes from arthouse distribs worldwide.


In fact, with the right kind of marketing, “No” has the potential to break out of the usual ghettos that keep Latin American cinema walled off from non-Hispanic territories. The political backdrop has immediate relevance for any nation that is facing or has recently faced a potential regime change (France, the U.S., Russia, most of the Arab world), while the upbeat, pro-underdog ending provides hope that even under the most adverse-seeming conditions, the good guys sometimes win. And with the international success of “Mad Men,” marketing campaigners should think about capitalizing on viewers’ fascination everywhere with portraits of the advertising industry itself, engagingly scrutinized here with a delicious, Matthew Weiner-style eye for period detail.


Based on Antoino Skarmeta’s legit piece “Referendum,” the screenplay centers around advertising exec Rene Saavedra (Bernal), the son of a prominent Chilean dissident who was sent into exile when Pinochet seized power, which would explain Rene’s Mexican accent. Apparently the Don Draper of his firm, Rene is a whiz kid first seen pitching, with none-too-subtle dramatic irony, a cheesy, cheerful campaign for a soft drink called Free. (The jarring inclusion of a mime artist in the mocked-up commercial evolves into a wry running joke throughout the film.)


Socialist politico Urrutia (Luis Gnecco), an old friend of Rene’s father, persuades Rene to help construct a persuasive 15-minute broadcast arguing for people to vote “no” against Pinochet in an upcoming plebiscite. The spot will be shown just once a day in a graveyard slot, a token concession to free-election fairness from the regime, which otherwise entirely controls the media. The regime itself is under offshore pressure to make some show of democracy after 15 years of military dictatorship.


Many Chileans — especially left-wingers such as Rene’s estranged, activist wife, Veronica (Antonia Zegers, “Post Mortem”), with whom he shares custody of young son Simon (Pascal Montero) — have no reason to believe the referendum won’t be rigged in Pinochet’s favor. Indeed, Veronica accuses Rene of effectively collaborating with the regime by participating in the whole charade. Elsewhere, some members of the coalition despise the bland, positive populism of Rene’s proposed campaign strategy, which downplays torture statistics and rhetoric in favor of literal rainbows and happiness.


Meanwhile, Rene’s boss, Lucho Guzman (Larrain’s regular leading man, Alfredo Castro), is recruited by the regime for its own campaign, and he tries to put Rene off working for the “No” coalition by offering him a partnership. Rene refuses, and so even as the two men get on with their day jobs of promoting soap operas and soft drinks together, their moonlight hours are spent plotting to undermine each other’s campaigns.


As such, the pic is perfectly in step with the trilogy’s previous installments, in which the world of politics impinges palpably on the lives of people connected to performing and show business. Here, however debased and manipulative the advertising world is (it’s all a “copy of a copy of a copy,” Veronica says dismissively), it’s nevertheless a degraded form of art that swings the election.


“No” is much less surreal and oneiric than its predecessors, and some of Larrain’s most devout followers will no doubt decry it as a sellout on par with that of its protagonist, but what it loses in arthouse credibility it gains in crossover potential. Result is obviously Larrain’s most ambitious and expensive effort, featuring proper crowd scenes in the riot sequences and obviously abundant coin spent on getting the look just right on every level, from the costumes to the props to the wonderful use of U-matic stock to make everything look of a piece with the sampled archival footage. Pic was lensed in the boxy Academy ratio, furthering the retro vibe.


Ace editing by Andrea Chinogli makes the nearly two-hour running time zip by effortlessly, and perfs, as one has come to expect from Larrain’s work, are immaculate. Bernal has seldom been better than he is here, especially in his penultimate, wrenchingly underplayed scene. For the record, the two men whose real-life stories formed the inspiration for Rene’s character, Jose Manuel Salcedo and  Enrique Garcia, appear onscreen in tiny roles as men working for the regime.

Popular on Variety



Production: A Fabula production in association with Participant Media, Funny Balloons.. (International sales: Funny Balloons, Paris.) Produced by Juan de Dios, Daniel Dreifuss. Executive producers, Jeff Skoll, Jonathan King. Directed by Pablo Larrain. Screenplay, Pedro Peirano, based on the play "Referendum" by Antoino Skarmeta.

Crew: Camera (color/B&W, video-to-35mm), Sergio Armstrong; editor, Andrea Chinogli; music, Carlos Cabezas; production designer, Estefania Larrain; costume designer, Francisca Roman; sound/sound designer (Dolby 5.1), Miguel Hormazabal; casting, Solange Medina. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (Directors' Fortnight), May 18, 2012. Running time: 116 MIN.

With: With: Gael Garcia Bernal, Alfredo Castro, Luis Gnecco, Antonia Zegers, Marcial Tagle, Nestor Cantillana, Jaime Vadell, Pascal Montero, Jose Manuel Salcedo, Enrique Garcia. (Spanish dialogue)

More Film

  • Benjamin Wallfisch - scoring session, Abbey

    Composer Benjamin Wallfisch Signs With Gorfaine/Schwartz Agency

    Composer Benjamin Wallfisch has signed with the Gorfaine/Schwartz Agency (GSA) for worldwide representation, in partnership with London-based agency COOL Music Ltd. A top composer, whose scoring credits include “It Chapter Two,” Shazam!” Hellboy,” “Hidden Figures” and “Hostile Planet,” among others, Wallfisch has worked on over 75 feature films and is a member of the BAFTA [...]

  • The Moneychanger

    Toronto Film Review: ‘The Moneychanger’

    Uruguayan auteur Federico Veiroj (“The Apostate,” “Belmonte”) broadens his usual intimate dramatic scope to diminishing returns for his fifth feature, “The Moneychanger,” . Adapted from a novella by compatriot Juan Enrique Gruber, the period (mid-1950s to mid-1970s) tale centers on the eponymous character, an amoral currency exchanger, who winds up laundering some of the dirtiest [...]

  • Send Me to the Clouds

    Film Review: ‘Send Me to the Clouds’

    The social and economic pressures felt by China’s “leftover women” — referring to those older than 26 and unmarried — are examined in “Send Me to the Clouds,” a rewarding dramedy about a 30-ish journalist seeking financial reward and sexual fulfillment after being diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Bold by mainland standards for presenting a positive [...]

  • Jamie Bell Without Remorse

    Jamie Bell Joins Michael B. Jordan in 'Without Remorse' Adaptation (EXCLUSIVE)

    Jamie Bell is in final negotiations to join Michael B. Jordan in Paramount’s adaptation of the Tom Clancy novel “Without Remorse.” Stefano Sollima, who most recently helmed “Sicario: Day of the Soldado,” is directing from a script by “Sicaro” screenwriter Taylor Sheridan. As previously announced, Jordan is starring as operations officer John Clark, also known [...]

  • Elizabeth McGovern, Laura Carmichael, Jim Carter,

    'Downton Abbey' Movie Sequel? Producers Tease That They Have 'Some Ideas'

    “Downton Abbey” holds the record as the most-nominated international show at the Emmy Awards with 69 nominations and 15 wins — and now, it stands a chance to nab an Oscar. More than three years after the beloved series signed off the air following six critically-acclaimed seasons, “Downton Abbey” is making its big-screen debut. “It [...]

  • Todd Phillips Joaquin Phoenix Joker Movie

    What's Woker Than 'Joker'? Film Critics Made Everything Political at Fall Festivals

    “Is it just me, or is it getting crazier out there?” asks Joaquin Phoenix, playing a deranged incel version of the DC supervillain in “Joker,” the unconventional comic book movie that’s sucked up much of the air from the fall festival circuit. Like an aggro caricature of the “involuntary celibates” who troll message boards online, [...]

  • Running Against the Wind

    Young Africans' Dreams Are Focus of Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda Oscar Picks

    Films about young Africans trying to fulfill their dreams in the face of war, poverty, tradition and other forms of adversity have been submitted for Oscar consideration by three East African nations. The selections by Kenya, Ethiopia and Uganda to compete in the international feature film category reflect the relative youth of filmmaking in the [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content