David Mermelstein is an AwardsLine contributor.
Fairly or not, European films are widely considered more serious than their American counterparts. Certainly the movies eligible for the best foreign film Oscar this year fit the mold. Several make struggle a central theme, doing so in varied but consistently engaging ways.
Pablo Larrain’s No, from Chile, examines the 1988 plebiscite forced on General Augusto Pinochet, the result of which marked the beginning of the end of his dictatorship. In the film, a gifted marketing executive, Rene (Gael Garcia Bernal), must choose between middle-class comforts and his conscience—a choice complicated by his family’s ties to leftist politics. His boss (Alfredo Castro), who is firmly in league with the pro-Pinochet forces, plays Mephistopheles in this situation, reminding Rene, in no uncertain terms, that the creature comforts he enjoys are by no means guaranteed. Complicating matters are Rene’s shaky relationship with his politically engaged wife, Veronica (Antonia Zegers), from whom he is already separated. All of which leads to the film’s central question: What price bravery?