Rated R, 107 minutes
In Spanish with English subtitles
The compelling, well-acted new drama "Neruda," directed by "Jackie's" Pablo Larrain, is a handsomely filmed, thought-provoking portrait of acclaimed Chilean poet, author and politician Pablo Neruda, who became a fugitive in his own country for his beliefs.
The movie focuses on the political persecution that poet and Communist Senator Pablo Neruda (Luis Gnecco) suffered after criticizing President Gabriel González Videla's brutal anti-communist repression in a speech in the National Congress in 1948, and the manhunt for his arrest, led by the fascist Chief of Policía de Investigaciones Oscar Peluchonneau (Gael García Bernal).
Directed by Larrain with a script by Guillermo Calderón, "Neruda" is a powerful yet unconventional biography of the Nobel Prize winner that focuses on his manhunt from government official Peluchonneau, well-played by Garcia Bernal. Part character exploration and part cat-and-mouse chase, it occasionally drifts off into some slower, unnecessary subplots, but the strong performances from Gnecco, of the Netflix series "Narcos," and Garcia Bernal make it worthwhile viewing.
The focused direction from Larrain, who also directed the recent, superbly done "Jackie," is also an asset here, as is the first-rate production values for the Spanish production. The lovely photography from Sergio Armstrong and the poignant score from acclaimed Spanish composer Federico Jusid (the 2009 Oscar-winning Spanish version of "The Secrets in their Eyes") also add some depth to "Neruda."
A couple of minor flaws: the film is occasionally uneven when it deals with some Peluchonneau's exploits, and the movie only covers a brief section in Neruda's life, who was an intriguing character even in later chapters of his life. Still, Neruda's work lives on today, and overall, it's a nice tribute to him.
Handsomely executed and a poignant look at the author's life, it's unfortunate that "Neruda" didn't make it into final contention for the Oscar for Best Foreign Film, as it would've been a strong contender for it. Worth seeing, especially for fans of Pablo Neruda.