No is a 2012 film directed by Pablo Larraín, based on the unpublished play El Plebiscito, written by Antonio Skármeta.
Chile, 1988. Augusto Pinochet has been dictator for fifteen years, since the 1973 coup (backed by the United States) that outsted left-wing but democratically elected President Salvador Allende. The brutality of Pinochet's regime—political prisoners, dissidents kidnapped by the regime and never seen again, torture—has brought international pressure on Pinochet to reform. Faced with this pressure, Pinochet elects to hold a plebescite on whether or not he should continue as president of the country. A "Yes" vote will give his regime a veneer of legitimacy that it has previously lacked.
Enter Rene (Gael García Bernal), an advertising man who makes TV commercials for stuff like Pepsi Free diet soda and microwave ovens. Rene is hired by the opposition to make commercials urging Chileans to vote "No". Rene is conflicted about it but eventually accepts the job, despite the danger it could pose to his cushy lifestyle. The leaders of the opposition, for their part, are none too thrilled when Rene reveals his strategy of advertising the "No" campaign just like he advertises diet soda and kitchen appliances, as an attractive product. And looming over everything is the threat that Pinochet will crack down brutally on the opposition, as he has so many times before.
- Advertising Campaigns: The whole movie, as Rene has to come up with a campaign that will motivate Chileans to go to the polls and vote No.
- Amicably Divorced: Rene and his wife. They get along together pretty well, and Rene seems to have some hope of them getting back together. Those hopes are dashed when he goes over to her apartment late in the film and finds a man there.
- As You Know: The arrival of leftist Jose Urrutia to the office is announced with "Jose Tomas Urrutia? The communist?"
- Attack of the Political Ad:
- A plot point. The opposition comes up with a commercial that is all anti-Pinochet, showing horrifying clips from the 1973 coup and citing the thousands that Pinochet has tortured, imprisoned, and killed. Rene doesn't think that will sell, and instead comes up with a much happier, upbeat commercial for No.
- Later in the film the Yes campaign's ads gradually become of this kind for the most part. René says the No campaign will not respond to this.
- Autobiographical Role: Several figures in the No campaign appear as themselves, including Patricio Aylwin, who succeeded Pinochet as president of Chile.
- Big Bad: Augusto Pinochet, dictator of Chile, is the target of the protagonists campaign to persuade the public to vote him out of presidency.
- Book Ends: Begins and ends with Rene and his boss Guzman making commercial pitches.
- Creator Cameo: Screenwriter Pedro Peirano appears as a member of the "No" campaign.
- Decade-Themed Filter: The film was made entirely under '80s old cameras and VCR effects to emulate this decade, so the film seems like it was really recorded in The '80s.
- Deliberate VHS Quality: As part of the above-mentioned Decade-Themed Filter.
- Everyone Hates Mimes: Rene's boss is not happy with his inclusion of a mime in the Pepsi Free commercial. When Rene uses the clip of the mime in his first "No" commercial, all the old communists who watch it aren't happy either.
- Fake-Out Opening: After the opening title cards which explain the premise of the story, the first scene has a very serious Rene talking about how it's a new era, and the people of Chile are ready for freedom and want "truth". He then plays a video—which is his advertisement for Pepsi Free. He's not hired by the No campaign until later.
- The Ghost: General Pinochet never appears onscreen, although he is seen in Stock Footage.
- I Was Never Here: When Alberto Arancibia, a René's colleague and friend, arrives to be part of a meeting of the "No" campaign, this exchange happens:Alberto Arancibia: I don't want to lose any clients, and I don't want to be hurt.René Saavedra: No one is going to know it.Alberto Arancibia: I am not here.
- Plucky Comic Relief: Sergio Fernandez, the Pinochet's interior minister.
- Politicians Kiss Babies: Pinochet is briefly seen doing this during a commercial for the Yes vote.
- Stock Footage: Quite a bit from the television commercials from the campaign. This even includes "No" messages by American actors Christopher Reeve, Jane Fonda, and Richard Dreyfuss.
- Streisand Effect: Exploited by the No campaign when the government censors a portion of a campaign ad that was due to air with a judge reporting on torture cases he knew about as part of his job; the ad that does air is about said case of censorship.
- Stylistic Suck: The entire film is shot on 1.37:1 aspect ratio, using old-timey, U-matic 3/4 videotape similar to what would have been used for broadcast television in the 1980s. According to the director Pablo Larraín, this was done to avoid differences, in terms of image quality and colors, between the filmed material and the stock footage in the film.
- Think of the Children!: A "Yes" commercial says that "in the country of the No" there's no respect for possessions; this is demonstrated by a steamroller crushing things like TV sets and electric lamps. The voiceover says "Think about what you value most. Think of your loved ones," as the steamroller bears down on a little girl holding a teddy bear.
- Video Credits: Sort of; actually pictures of the main cast appear with their names as the credits roll.