Tuesday, 19 February 2013


A spirited account of Chile's escape from the clutches of dictatorship in 1988, Pablo Larrain's No makes up for its lack of innovation with its brio and sense of humour, partially at least. It almost approaches docudrama territory with the frequent footage of the ad campaigns run by opposing sides in the plebiscite, and this footage is the most revealing and entertaining aspect of No. Production details are excellent in their evocation of the era, and the faux-authentic filming style is only occasionally tacky, and mostly successful. Larrain achieves a feeling of immediacy throughout, keeping the flow of scenes brisk, the camera close and intimate, the performances bright and natural. It's somewhat sloppy, though, and both verbose enough that you'll need to pay constant attention, yet often lacking in clarity, or even pertinence - many characters barely register, and their petty squabbles add neither humour nor dramatic depth. Larrain adds a jolt of tension every now and then, but to little avail; it's always short-lived, and ultimately only clutters the tone of the film. All of this is why the contemporary ad footage is so much more interesting - it has been created with purpose, a greater purpose than No can aspire to today, and one which it has its sights firmly set on. Larrain is generous with his use of it, though, which is welcome, and also necessary, considering its centrality to the story. No is, then, an appealing but slightly frustrating and unsatisfying film, generally well-executed but a tad unmemorable.