This impressive, grungy-looking period Chilean documentary-drama from Pablo Larrain adapted from a play by Pedro Peirano takes on the 1988 referendum to have Pres. Pinochet in office for another decade.
No (fully subtitled) smoothly melds old news clips with much levity and melodrama in blithely navigating a tenuous political landscape in locating a bold traction from its trappings and narrative architecture.
It helps that there's a charming actor in Gael Garcia Bernal (Letters To Juliet, The Bourne Ultimatum, as well as exemplary as Ernesto Guevara in The Motorcycle Diaries) at the center of it all as advertising employee Rene. Specifically, the eponymous lobby against the right-wing campaign advocated by his boss Lucho (Alfredo Castro).
There's imagination in their competition as both get their chance to air their means of expression; free-spirited Rene is crusading for human rights and feels he has U.S. support while the opposition feels the same while untraditionally going about their ideologies in artfully working to sway the public.
Larrain uses the gloomy visuals well in ways that match his personal feel for the material, like unearthing a long-lost diary. The acting comes off as unforced, heeding many of the wry moments, as well as the more penetrating acrid, even absurd political underpinnings. It helps that Bernal, as well as many of his counterparts (even in much smaller roles) like Antonia Zegers and Nestor Cantillana, have fully developed characterizations that they naturally inhabit and very sympathetic fashion.
Throughout there are heated, wild, and virile ripostes that swirl in and around the politics with élan as the creative production and storytelling delivers an unexpected upbeat dramatic conclusion along with taut action. The filmmaking is cognizant of the unsettling times and places, positioning it all with noticeable amusing, if running in-jokes while seditious (like Rene) in cannily turning out a crafty cinematic piece of nostalgia. While having the loose, witty free reign to keep its audience off guard with a certain aroused delight in strikingly siding with No.