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Neruda is a near-perfect homage to a literary giant

Luis Gnecco, right, and Michael Silva in Neruda.

Courtesy of TARO

3.5 out of 4 stars

Title
Neruda
Written by
Guillermo Calderón
Directed by
Pablo Larrain
Starring
Gael Garcia Bernal and Luis Gnecco
Genre
Drama
Classification
14A
Language
English
Year
2016

"Who is this Mr. Neruda?" someone asks in the opening minutes of Pablo Larrain's Neruda. Over the next two hours, many answers emerge: the "King of Love"; the leader of artists and intellectuals who "soaks up other people's suffering and sweat"; the man born as Neftali Ricardo Reyes Basoalto; the writer-cum-protagonist who shapes his own story.

Most of those descriptions roll off the tongue of Gael Garcia Bernal, who narrates the film and plays the insecure police officer out to arrest the larger-than-life poet, played by Luis Gnecco. Both offer mysterious, quirky performances; a lyrical and darkly funny script offers as much social commentary as it does similes; and a grand finale surprises.

Is Neruda a cinematic play, a poem, a biopic? In this near-perfect homage to a literary giant, it's all open to interpretation.

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