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5/10

Stars: Gael Garcia Bernal, Antonia Zegers, Alfredo Castro, NÚstor Cantillana, Luis Gnecco, Jaime Vadell and (in archive footage) Jane Fonda, Christopher Reeve, Richard Dreyfuss

Director: Pablo Larrain

Director Larrain never really gets a grip on his subject in this film, which veers from deeply boring (at the beginning) to vaguely interesting...if you're into Chilean politics, that is.

An account of the advertising campaign that proved pivotal in returning democracy to the country in 1988, following years of oppressive military rule, it focuses on RenÚ (an anonymous, blank-eyed performance from Bernal), the brains behind the push to encourage the country to vote No to General Pinochet in a referendum, and put an end to people living in fear of the next atrocity, the next retribution.

The general, whose opponents were often subjected to torture, imprisonment (or both), or simply disappeared, is confident of winning the election. But that doesn't stop the authorities from resorting to some tough tactics, on and off the voters' television screens, when it becomes obvious that the opposition's campaign of 'Happiness for Chile' is becoming a genuine threat.

Although the film gets a little more intriguing as it moves along, Larrain finds insufficent drama in this potentially fascinating subject, and his direction often lacks a sense of urgency, leading too often to a 'talking heads'-style approach. The actors seem not called upon to deliver especially incisive or charismatic performances, and the emotive nature of the final outcome is not given quite enough weight.

David Quinlan

Chile/France/USA 2012. UK Distributor: Network Releasing. Technicolor.
118 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 0, Swearing 2.

Review date: 07 Feb 2013