Rating: Four stars
Just say yes to anyone who suggests seeing Pablo Larrain’s engrossing, Oscar-nominated drama starring Gael Garcia Bernal as Rene Saavedra, a brilliant young adman recruited to craft a slick advertising campaign for the No side in the 1988 plebiscite that would unseat Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet. Although fictionalized — Bernal’s character is a composite of two advertising hotshots — and potentially challenging for those unfamiliar with the politics, this is an inventively entertaining portrait of truth in advertising, or variations thereof. Larrain’s fusion of live-action footage, filmed with vintage equipment to give it a deliberately grainy, retro look, and abundant archival footage is inspired. The Chilean director is very good at mining the film’s sly humour, generating intrigue and building tension when feared repercussions begin to kick in. He is equally adept at dramatizing the perceived impertinence of the whiz kid whose initially cheesy, over-produced (for its time) soft-drink-type commercials raise the hackles of politicos. Bernal perfectly embodies the infectious passion of the young maverick, son of a Chilean dissident, especially when scare tactics mount and both campaigns roar, at times absurdly, into overdrive. With the mud-slinging already under way in B.C.’s election campaign, this rousing cautionary tale couldn’t be better timed.
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