Saint George

Saint George

In 2011 Portugal suffered from a crippling financial crisis that resulted in the country borrowing large sums of money from the troika – the EU, the IMF and the ECB as part of a long-term bailout strategy. This lead to harsh austerity measures that reduced public spending and basically squeezed the common man. At the start of Saint George, we are informed that as a consequence of this happening, many agencies sprang up in Portugal that bought debt from banks and took over the responsibility of ensuring money owed was collected, often with violent consequences.

In the film Jorge is an aging boxer short on funds. He makes ends meets by working in a factory on the brink of closure but also participating in matches on the side. When his ex-wife announces her intention to leave soon for Brazil with their young son in tow and with life under a dominating father becoming more unbearable, Jorge reluctantly accepts work as a hired hand in one of these debt-collecting agencies. This setup is ripe with possibilities – a pugilist with a moral dilemma forced to use his physicality to punish, intimidate and threaten victims of a larger social problem. The film however never completely delivers on these promises.

To start with, the storytelling feels too passive and distant for us to ever become emotionally invested in the problems of the individuals Jorge is meant to pursue. Compare this to the direct harshness with which Ramin Bahrani’s superior 99 Homes approached the similar situation of a commoner who has to unwillingly accept work as the person responsible for evicting people on behalf of banks due to their inability to make their mortgage payments. Even the director’s method – employing a cinéma vérité approach using natural lighting, following his subjects for long durations and an interesting setup that focuses on the downtrodden of society in a way that would make the acclaimed Dardenne brothers proud, doesn’t completely work because it gets repetitive in the absence of any real narrative tension. Ultimately, even though Saint George possesses a stimulating subject matter and setup, it never really manages to create a compelling drama out it.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆


About Faizan Rashid

A veteran Dubai based film critic, Faizan has been reviewing movies for nearly a decade. His work has been published in local newspapers such as 7days and on prestigious online websites such as MSN Arabia and