The world can often feel like a dark place, with all the injustice, famines and wars. It’s easy to feel helpless, and yet there are people in every generation who look at the world and decide to see the good in it. Sergio was undoubtedly one of them.
Sergio tells the story of Sérgio Vieira de Mello, an UN diplomat who worked for over 30 years on various humanitarian projects. He wasn’t afraid to speak with any leader, be it an elected official or a warlord, and he also helped shine a light on multiple humanitarian crises. The main part of the story takes place in Iraq of 2003 and the clash between the humanitarian work of UN and armed occupation by US Forces on the territory. Through a series of multiple prolonged and logically framed flashbacks we get a better understanding of Sergio’s life and career, as his work took him out of his home country of Brazil around the world – from the conflicts in Cambodia to the ones in East Timor.
This isn’t exactly a new topic for director Greg Barker, up until now a strictly documentary filmmaker. He already once covered the life and work of Sergio in his 2009 doc of the same name.
De Mello is played by Wagner Moura, a Brazilian actor best known for playing Pablo Escobar in the Netflix show Narcos, although here Moura gives more of a Colin Firth look-alike vibe rather than that of a drug lord. As is the case with almost every biopic, Sergio is an idealised character – heroic, romantic and flawed in all the right ways. For many of us, however, the main draw of Sergio will be Carolina Larriera, the diplomat’s co-worker and partner, portrayed by Ana de Armas. She’s once again great in her role, although her character is sidelined for most of the runtime.
The leads deliver strong performances, easily the highlight of the film, and essentially carry the whole thing even through the dullest scenes. Halfway through, the film decides to focus on Sergio’s love life and the romance that builds between him and Carolina is nothing else than boring, significantly weighing the film down.
It’s an easy-to-watch film, one that thrives on streaming thanks to the constant expository dialogue ensuring you won’t miss a thing, even if you move away from the screen. At the same time, Sergio is quite impactful while it’s on, but there’s little lasting impact, as the film begins to flee from memory soon after the credits. In the end, Sergio is an effective political drama, and an ineffective romantic story, about a man who alway put the world’s needs in front of his own.