‘Rest In Peace’ Ending Explained & Film Summary: Are Sergio And Estela Dead Or Alive?


Rest in Peace, or Descansar en Paz in Spanish, is a new Argentinian thriller drama film streaming on Netflix that tells an interesting story with adequate efficiency. The plot follows Sergio Dayan, a businessman currently riddled with enormous debts to his name and facing great danger in the form of a dangerous moneylender he has borrowed funds from. But the situation takes a very convenient turn when Sergio is suddenly believed to have died in a horrific terrorist bomb blast in the city. Overall, Rest in Peace makes for an enjoyable watch without really crossing the bounds of the overdramatic.

Spoiler Alert

What is the film about?

Set in the Argentinian capital of Buenos Aires, Rest in Peace begins with Sergio at a jewelry store, buying a gold necklace for his daughter, Florencia. As she has just turned thirteen, which is considered the age of legal adulthood in the Jewish religion, Florencia is about to have her Bat Mitzvah celebration, for which her father buys a present for her. But Sergio is tense with some other thoughts, and although he buys a beautiful gold necklace, he looks outside at an old, disheveled homeless man playing around with street dogs. Very soon, it is revealed that Sergio is genuinely worried and troubled by his current financial situation, for his business has been dwindling. Along with the factory workers rightfully demanding their pay for the previous few months’ work, Florencia’s school fees are also left unpaid, leading to tremendous pressure on the family. 

As a result of this shortage of funds, Sergio had borrowed a large amount of money from a local money lending firm, run by a man named Hugo Brenner, and this now creates even more problems. Since the protagonist has not paid off the debts in time, Brenner sends a henchman to Florencia’s bar mitzvah party, which causes Sergio to have a panic attack. Wanting to settle the matter, he goes over to Hugo Brenner’s office the next day, asking for one month’s time to pay back the money, but the dangerous moneylender does not agree. He gives Sergio only a week to settle the debts and even starts to blackmail him by sending photos of his wife and children to prove that they are being stalked by his men. All of this pushes Sergio into extreme stress and desperation, and although his wife, Estela, is mostly supportive once she hears of these surprising developments, she cannot help the situation in any way.

Along with the outsiders waiting to be paid back by Sergio, some of his family members are also owed money by the protagonist, and the situation looks extremely bleak for him. Selling off his family house in the countryside to a friend, the man is able to gather some funds, which he decides to return to Brenner as a promise that he will pay back the full amount at the earliest. On the very next fateful morning, Sergio plans to visit the Brenner office and parks his car at a popular parking plaza, walking the rest of the way with the money hidden inside a money belt. Suddenly, the whole place is shaken by a devastating bomb blast, which immediately creates a lot of chaos and bloodshed. The bomb blast is determined to have been an act of terror against the Jewish community, and it is reported to have killed and injured many. Most notably, in our context, Sergio Dayan is missing after the blast, with the grave possibility that he has died, taking all his debts along with him.

How do Estela and the family cope with the loss?

Within some time of the bomb blast, Estela finds out about the attack from the news on TV, and she is naturally quite worried, especially since Sergio’s office states that he had not yet come in. Sergio’s secretary, Gladys, suggests that he might be stuck on the road because of the blast, and it is she who informs Estela that he had gone close to the site that morning because of a business meeting. In fact, the bomb blast, which was targeted at the AMIA Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, was a very real incident in history, which took place in 1994, and Rest in Peace uses that very incident as the backdrop to its plot. Estela immediately rushes over to the area to find any trace of her husband, and like thousands of other men and women, she, too, is clueless about the fate of her loved one. Seeing his car parked at the parking center scares her some more, and when she asks the authorities whether anyone matching the description of Sergio was found, she does not receive any positive news.

Hours after the incident, there is still no sign of Sergio, and Estela is told by the police to wait some more, as some survivors might still be shocked by the experience and, therefore, missing. The woman refuses to give up on her search for him, and she does not believe that he has died either, keeping her children in the dark, with the help of her family. Estela visits the courthouse in order to go through the photographs of people who were confirmed to be dead. Although Sergio’s photo is not on the list, the authorities hand Estela a briefcase that certainly belonged to her husband. Despite fearing the worst, she is still not convinced that anything serious has happened to him. However, days pass, with no trace of Sergio still being found, and the authorities finally claim that he is probably dead. 

Covered by a mix of fear, grief, and despair, Estela keeps claiming that her husband is alive, and she leaves no stone unturned in searching for Sergio. Even though her back is against the wall and everyone around her has given up hope, Estela still refuses to take the life insurance money out of a strong hope that he will soon be found. Eventually, Estela has to accept her fate, and she finally agrees to take the monetary benefits associated with the loss of her beloved husband. Sergio had made a life insurance policy in his name that would compensate for his death with a large sum of money to be received by his family. In fact, he had once considered making use of this insurance when the debts in his name kept rising, and now, this very insurance works in the favor of his family.

Estela has no option but to move on from the loss of her husband and start living a normal life with the help of the insurance money. She uses this money to pay off all the workers at their factory, which is naturally shut down after the death of the owner. When Estela goes to pay the dues at her children’s school, she is told that the school authorities have decided to fully fund the children’s education from now on. She then also goes to meet with Hugo Brenner, intending to make an arrangement for the repayment of the loan. As fate would have it, Hugo had also recently lost his sister in the bomb blast, and he and Estela had seen each other at the courthouse. Mostly because of this very reason, and also perhaps slightly out of respect for Sergio, Hugo waives off the entire loan amount. He states that whatever Sergio owed him is not the responsibility of his family, and so Estela does not have to pay the man anything.

Before leaving, though, Estela mentions that Sergio was about to pay back some of the money on that fateful morning, and this seems to irk Hugo a bit. But the man had also caught an interest in her by now, and this interaction further encouraged him to go meet Estela at her clinic. Soon, Estela starts dating Hugo, and she introduces him to her children as well, mentioning him as her friend. With time, both Florencia and Matias accept Hugo as their own family member, and so when he finally marries Estela and makes a transition into the role of their father, the children do not mind at all. In this manner, the lives of Estela, Florencia, and Matias change for the better, and they become a part of the Brenner family and also the business.

Did Sergio really die in the bomb blast?

Although it was believed and accepted by everyone that Sergio Dayan had died in the bomb blast, this was actually not the real truth. Sergio had been hurt in the blast, with a severe injury to his head, and he had been rushed to the hospital after being found. Seeing the tremendous death and suffering around him, he probably wished that his life would soon end, too, but this was not the case. The doctors at the hospital examined him and announced him to be fit for release, following which Sergio decided to take matters into his own hands. The man left Buenos Aires and illegally crossed over the border to Paraguay. In the new country, he started living as an immigrant and got work at an electronics shop. Sergio took on the identity of Nicolas Nieto, and he did not tell anyone about his real story. His boss, known as El Gordo, and his wife, Ilu, loved Nicolas and treated him almost like family.

Because of his health and lifestyle conditions, El Gordo did not live very long and suffered a sudden heart attack, which took his life. By this time, Sergio had gotten hold of a fake Paraguayan identity card in the name of Nicolas Nieto, and this greatly helped him create a new life. Ilu was already quite attracted to him, and after the death of her husband, she directly approached Sergio. The protagonist did agree to run the electronics shop for her and also occasionally spend the night with her, but he seemingly did not start a family with her. Instead, Sergio remained living by himself, drawn to the memories of his family, especially his young son Matias, with only a rescued dog as his only true company.

During this long exile for Sergio, he once ran across a known face in the market, that of his children’s old nanny, Beatrice. As the woman was possibly from Paraguay too, she had returned home to suddenly see Sergio alive and was extremely scared of him. But Sergio managed to calm her down and explain why he had to get away from his past life in order to help his family members survive. After all, the terrorist attack was an incredible opportunity for him to fake his death and escape Argentina, and Beatrice agrees as well, promising to not tell anyone about the chance meeting. Years passed, and Sergio remained invested in this new life of his despite often remembering his loved ones.

Eventually, with the advent of Facebook, Sergio got to know about the present lives of Estela, Florencia, and Matias, although he did not know that his wife had remarried. Photographs of the children, particularly Matias, make him wish to return to see his family, and Sergio finally gives in to the desire. He bids goodbye to Ilu, who had figured out that the man must be having a different family abroad, and then returns to Buenos Aires, hoping to see his children and possibly even make contact with them. He now finds out that Estela is about to get married to her boyfriend, and Sergio decides to attend the wedding from afar. He knows that he might never be able to make contact with his children or that they might not believe his story either. Seeing such a fate as the ultimate result of his life, Sergio keeps a handgun ready in his hotel room, planning to take his own life once the ceremony is over.

What happens to Estela and her family?

Rest in Peace’s ending takes place at the marriage ceremony, where Sergio realizes that Estela has now remarried, and her current husband is the very man because of whom he had to fake his own death. Sergio cannot digest the fact that his wife settled with the very man responsible for his exile, Hugo Brenner. He hurries out of the place but gets noticed by both Matias and Estela. While Matias informs his father, Brenner, about the matter, Estela decides to pursue Sergio by herself. It is clear that despite the massive changes in her life, she still loved Sergio and had been genuinely hurt by his absence. However, Sergio cannot hold on to the pain of seeing his rival take over his entire life and family. Knowing well that Hugo will retaliate, he points his gun at the moneylender, and surely enough, Hugo Brenner shoots Sergio dead. Rest in Peace ends with Estela rushing to Sergio and calming him in the final few seconds of his life, with his last apology to Estela still resonating in her and the viewer’s consciences. 

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Sourya Sur Roy
Sourya Sur Roy
Sourya keeps an avid interest in all sorts of films, history, sports, videogames and everything related to New Media. Holding a Master of Arts degree in Film Studies, he is currently working as a teacher of Film Studies at a private school and also remotely as a Research Assistant and Translator on a postdoctoral project at UdK Berlin.

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