Movie review by
Renee Schonfeld, Common Sense Media
Sergio Movie Poster Image
True story of UN diplomat in Iraq; violence, sex, language.
  • R
  • 2020
  • 118 minutes

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Acknowledges the folly of unjust, chaotic political strategy and loss of life that results in wartime. Establishes that one individual, in this case both a female and a male, can make positive changes even against great odds. Promotes courage, integrity, wisdom, and activism.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Heroic true character is ethical, thoughtful, resilient, brave, and driven to do good. Most other characters are courageous, determined, and resourceful as well. Lead female character is a powerful activist: strong, capable, and passionately devoted to a cause. Villain is an inept U.S. official who is both ignorant and negligent.   


Post-bomb footage throughout: wounded, dead, bloodied, moaning victims are a part of the background of numerous sequences. Two men trapped in the rubble of a bombed hotel suffer throughout. An amputation is performed (obscured, but heard, including sawing off of legs). 


A growing, passionate romance is set against a canvas of war. It culminates in a sequence of sexual intercourse with nudity (breasts and backsides).


Occasional swearing and profanity: "f--k," "hell," "Jesus Christ," "a--hole," "damn," "s--t."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Alcohol is consumed in several scenes; no drunkenness.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Sergio, the fact-based drama about Brazilian Sergio Vieria de Mello, the United Nation's High Commissioner for Human Rights in 2003, is set in Iraq near the beginning of the U.S. initiated-Iraq War (the second Gulf War). It's both a political drama and a passionate love story. Director Greg Barker first relayed events in Sergio's life in an award-winning 2009 documentary (also called "Sergio"), using Samantha Power's nonfiction book Chasing the Flame (2008) as his source. When UN headquarters in Baghdad are bombed, two men (one of them Sergio) are trapped underground for the duration of the film. The movie is filled with graphic images of dead and wounded victims as they lie waiting and crying for help outside the collapsed building. Rescue efforts are intense, including an amputation that isn't seen, but is distinctly heard. Occasional swearing and profanity are heard (i.e., "Jesus Christ," "damn," "s--t," "f--k," "a--hole"). In one flashback, viewers will see a carefully-shot sequence of sexual intercourse with some nudity (bare breasts and backsides).  Alcohol is consumed in social settings. 

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What's the story?

In SERGIO, the US-Iraq War is in its earliest stages when in August, 2003, UN headquarters in a Baghdad hotel are bombed. Trapped beneath the building, Sergio (Wagner Moura), the principal UN diplomat stationed there, recalls events in his life that led to this moment. As valiant attempts to save Sergio (Wagner Moura) and his aide Gil Loescher (Brian F. O'Byrne) are underway, the story of Sergio's UN career, as well as his passionate relationship with another UN worker, Carolina Larriera (Ana de Armas), evolve in flashbacks. From East Timor, where Sergio and Carolina meet during a critical time in the new country's fight for independence, and then in Iraq, both principals are engaged in righteous struggles for the oppressed. Memories from just three months before the bombing reveal Sergio's commitment to the UN, escalating dissension with the U.S. Coalition Leader Paul Bremer (Bradley Whitford), and his intrepid sense of responsibility for the Iraqis who are under siege from both internal and external forces. 

Is it any good?

With its charismatic hero, feisty, resourceful heroine, and true events with roots in controversial policies, the film pays tribute to an exceptional man who fought repeatedly for human rights. Sergio is earnest storytelling. The filmmakers, including the excellent actors (even those in the smallest roles), are clearly all-in in what must have been a challenging production. The central character may not have been as blemish-free as he's portrayed here, and the writing isn't as artful as it might have been. Neither, however, lessen the pleasure of discovering Sergio Vieria de Mello and the inspiring final years of his life. It's interesting to note that when the movie was shown at the Sundance Festival in early 2020, Carolina Larriera was on hand to share the moment.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the violence and aftermath of battle footage in Sergio. In what ways does knowing that the violence you're watching is based on true events impact your reaction? Does it make more intense? Sadder? Why is it important to be aware of the impact of violence, especially realistically-portrayed violence like Sergio, on young viewers? 

  • Do you think the filmmakers have a particular viewpoint about the events that took place in Iraq leading to the hotel bombing? If so, what is that view? How does the depiction of the U.S. leaders of the mission differ from the portrayal of the men on the ground who were fighting the war, especially the folks were trying desperately to save Sergio and the others?  

  • Sergio Vieria de Molllo is remembered as a real-life hero. How did learning about his past missions (in East Timor and Cambodia) help define the man and his heroism and help the audience invest in his character?

Movie details

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