Directed by: Sebastián Lelio
Written by: Sebastián Lelio and Gonzalo Maza.
Starring: Paulina García (Gloria), Sergio Hernández (Rodolfo), Diego Fontecilla (Pedro), Fabiola Zamora (Ana), Luz Jiménez (Nana), Alejandro Goic (Gabriel), Liliana García (Flavia), Coca Guazzini (Luz), Hugo Moraga (Hugo).
You do not see characters like Gloria in American movies very often. This film, set in Chile, is about a 58 year old, divorced woman with two grown children. The film is about her life – spending more time on her budding romantic relationship with Rodolfo (Sergio Hernandez) than any other single aspect of her life. Yet refreshingly, the movie is not a How Stella Got Her Groove Back type fantasy, or a portrait of loneliness that wants us to pity its main character. Gloria is, for the most part, happy – whether her relationship with Rodolfo works out or not, we get the sense that she is going to be fine.
When we first meet Gloria (wonderfully played by Paulina Garcia) we think we know what kind of movie this is going to be. She’s sitting alone at a bar, nursing a drink and wearing ridiculously big Tootsie glasses. But appearances can be deceiving, and as Gloria gets up off her chair, and starts flirting and chatting with others, she comes alive. She’s out by herself – but not overly lonely. She doesn’t have trouble finding men to dance with her – or to come home with her if she feels like it – and she remains completely in control of herself. When she meets Rodolfo and takes him home, she never expects to hear from him again – and is surprised when she does. The two start a fun loving affair – bonding over sex and their appetite to have a good time. He’s divorced too – but much more recently – and has two grown daughters he still supports, as well as his ex-wife. “You don’t understand” he tells her “They need me” – something he says with complete sincerity even though his daughters are now 30, and should have had more than enough time to grow the hell up. Gloria’s children certainly have – she hovers over them, perhaps a little too overprotectively, but nothing all that out of the ordinary – and she’s devastated when her daughter decides to move to her boyfriend’s home country of Sweden – but she knows that it is her daughter’s life, and not hers.
If there is a problem with Gloria it’s that there is a sameness to many of the scenes. The film takes its cue from Garcia’s excellent performance – which she mainly keeps on even keel – which while refreshing, also hampers the drama a little bit. There are a few too many scenes of Rodolfo on the phone with his daughters – a few too many times when they break up and get back together. While I appreciated that this was a film that avoided histrionics throughout, it does mean that the film feels somewhat lacking in drama.
Still though, the movie is strong enough to overcome these flaws. Garcia’s lead performance is subtle and wonderful from beginning to end and I loved the frank and honest way the film dealt with sexuality – most movies about people this age either don’t have sex in them at all, or else plays it for laughs. Gloria suggests that it’s still possible to have a satisfying sex life at that age – a very welcome message. I cannot quite put my finger on it, but I also think that, like many recent films from Chile, the film subtlety addresses the military dictatorship that Gloria and Rodolfo spent years living under. It is never explicitly mentioned – but it’s there nonetheless.
I didn’t love Gloria as much as some people do – I found it a little slow and repetitious in places. Still, the film is a refreshing portrait of a “woman of a certain age” that treats her with honesty and respect. We shouldn’t have to celebrate the fact that this is a novel thing for a movie to do, but of course, sadly we do.