Initials S.G.


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Initials SG
"This is a gem of a role and Peretti allows himself to be fully absorbed by it." | Photo: Courtesy of Tribeca Film Festival

“Everyone deserves to have something said about them, no?”

Sergio (Diego Peretti) desperately wants to be somebody. Inspired by his own initials, he’s made something of a life for himself as a Serge Gainsbourg impersonator; he can hold a tune well but doesn’t really have anything original to contribute. He’s also tried his luck as an actor and is appearing in more films than anyone else at a local film festival, but it’s hard to get noticed through bit parts and uncredited appearances as an extra. Now that he’s getting older, his dreams are getting further and further away. He keeps trying – despite doing his best to seem like he’s above that sort of thing – but he’s getting hollowed out inside.

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Having been knocked off his bike by a carelessly opened car door at the outset, Sergio spends most of the film with a bandage strapped across his nose, Chinatown style. He’s also on probation, which disrupts his schedule and means he can’t afford to get into fights, tempted though he frequently is. It’s a particularly difficult time to be in this position because passions are inflamed right across Argentina as its football team competes in the 2014 World Cup. In the middle of all this he meets Jane (Julianne Nicholson), who is visiting on business from the US and immediately takes a shine to him. Despite not really being interested (perhaps because she’s interested in him), he somehow ends up involved with her, and whilst she’s wrestling with a difficult emotional situation of her own, he’s trying to find a way out.

About two thirds of the way through, the film takes an abrupt sidestep when Sergio commits a crime by accident, landing himself in what could be very deep trouble. The need to find a way out brings everything into sharp relief, with even football having to take a back seat. Could this, bizarrely, give him the stimulus to change his life for the better, or will it simply set him spiralling further into the abyss?

Rania Attieh and Daniel Garcia’s darkly comic script sees its put-upon hero get into increasingly absurd situations that are largely accidental or of his own making. His unwillingness to step up and deal with small things means that big things spiral rapidly out of control. One might put it down to a lack of social skills, but he’s charming enough to get what he wants at least some of the time when he actually tries, often at other people’s expense.

This is a gem of a role and Peretti allows himself to be fully absorbed by it. Though she gets less to do, Nicholson is similarly impressive; her character is likewise complex but less showy on the surface, less focused on what others think. Whilst other aspects of the film don’t always quite gel, this is enough to hold the attention throughout, and whether you like Sergio or not, you’ll end up feeling more than you expected to.

Reviewed on: 05 Mar 2020
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Initials S.G. packshot
An ageing Argentine Serge Gainsbourg wannabe struggles with a career he can't seem to get on track, an affair he doesn't want, and a crime he didn't mean to commit.

Director: Rania Attieh, Daniel Garcia

Writer: Rania Attieh, Daniel Garcia

Starring: Julianne Nicholson, Diego Peretti, Julianne Nicholson, Diego Peretti

Year: 2019

Runtime: 93 minutes

Country: Argentina, Lebanon, US

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