Directed by Marco Martins (‘How to Draw a Perfect Circle’, ‘Um Ano Mais Longo’), who reunites with actor Nuno Lopes (star of Martins’ Cannes award-winning ‘Alice’), and filmed in darkened tones by DoP Carlos Lopes around seedier parts of Lisbon. ‘Saint George’ tells a story of desperation and the heroism that arises when man is faced with a fight or flight situation.
It’s 2011. Jorge is an ex-boxer, a casualty of the European troika bailout measures imposed on his country. He has a Brazilian ex-wife, Susana (Mariana Nunes), who wants little to do with him. Jorge and Susana have a child, Nelson (David Semedo), and to his father, the child is a form of salvation.
Hoping to improve his situation, Jorge accepts a job as a debt collector for one of the countless agencies who’ve bought the debts of regular Portuguese people who defaulted on their loans because their wages or income was reduced or they were laid off. He accompanies two men from the agency and basically needs to look tough and menacing, which is a piece of cake for a former pugilist. But then he’s instructed to rough up a man who owns a fruit and vegetable transportation business who’s promised to pay several times but still hasn’t. Jorge can’t go through with it.
Written by Martins and Ricardo Adolfo, the screenplay gives some subtle hints to his motivation: Jorge is self-aware enough to realise that if he didn’t have the debt collection job, he might be in the same situation as those he needs to rough up.
Nuno Lopes is the standout in this film, his roughly-hewn physicality embodying Jorge’s personal suffering. Lopes began boxing training two years before production began on the film.
According to Martins: “This boxer character was a kind of gateway to talk about this degraded standard of living. When I started investigating boxers (very often from a very low social class), I discovered that many of them were working in debt collection companies. And that's where I found the starting point of the film's story.”
Martins weaves in documentary elements, small moments in which real people can be heard discussing their financial and professional problems, to enhance his drama. The vivid soundscape also ensures that every punch lands with an audible blow.
David Semedo turns in a notable performance as Jorge’s son but Nuno Lopes is the standout in this film, his roughly-hewn physicality embodying Jorge’s personal suffering. Lopes began boxing training two years before production began on the film, then up to six hours a day in the final six months. It’s partially due to his performance and sheer presence that the material, which occasionally sinks into predictability, remains gripping.