Context is good and helpful at least for the most part. And Saint George gives a lot of that with the dinner conversations that supporting characters have. It’s understandable for such characters to talk about themselves, especially when the topic is the economy. Perhaps these conversations seem too self aware. Although they do a lot in shaping how we see the film’s protagonist George (Nuno Lopes). His extended family and their friends are ex-factory workers who bemoan their economic conditions. They also run a boxing gym, in which George is a member and fighter. But in between training sessions he’s on the entourage of debt collecting companies.
George, like his namesake, has a dragon to slay, but there are parallels between this character and another saint, St. Matthew. He’s betraying his own people. Or at least, the rich citizens of his people by being the strong arm of these debt collectors. He’s mindful of this, as we first see him praying to his saint. We also see his ex-wife Susana (Mariana Nunes), worried about his very dangerous lines of work. So when his bosses call on him to be more than just an intimidating presence, ethical influences holds him back.
Director Marco Martins has a more realistic eye than directors from his country like Miguel Gomes. But there are signs of polish here. He makes Lisbon, Portugal look like a broken emerald city. There are flashes of neon green shining on the affordable housing where George lives. Most of the scenes also take place at night time where people like him allow themselves to be out. This environment molds George, Lopes is transformative in this film, evoking peak Brando. Despite its heavy handed tendencies, the film is at its best when it focuses on this compelling lead’s personal struggles.