Director: Sebastián Lelio
Screenwriters: Sebastián Lelio and Gonzalo Maza
Runtime: 110 mins.
Australian release date: 27 February 2014
Previewed at: Studio 12, Hoyts Entertainment Quarter, Sydney, on 21 February 2014.
You don’t have to be a ‘woman of a certain age’ (or a man for that matter!) to embrace this wonderfully honest film about love and loneliness. Gloria, directed by the Chilean director Sebastián Lelio, is set in present-day Santiago. When we meet empty-nester Gloria (Paulina García - known for a number of roles on Chilean TV), a well-preserved divorcee in her 50s, she is heading off to a night club where she can dance and mingle with people of her age group. This is a woman who doesn't feel that she should be at home in bed with a sleeping pill and a copy of the equivalent of a Spanish Barbara Cartland novel. Although divorced for 12 years, she’s still got a lot of life to live.
At the club, Gloria is eyed-off by a recently divorced ex-Navy man, Rodolfo (Sergio Hernández - No), who sweeps her off her feet and into his arms. They make love (after he’s removed his girdle - he’s had lap-banding surgery!) and the camera doesn't hold back; we witness a perfectly ordinary love-making scene which shows quite beautifully that even oldies can get it on. It also reveals that here we have a director and, more importantly, actors who are not afraid of showing that people’s sex lives don’t end in their 30s and 40s.
Their relationship develops and Gloria takes Rodolfo to a family gathering at her son Pedro’s (Diego Fontecilla) place, attended also by her daughter Ana (Fabiola Zamora, making her feature film début), her ex-husband Gabriel (Alejandro Goic) and his new wife, who Gloria graciously observes is “muy guapa”. From this soirée we learn that the family is a bit fractured, presumably due to the break-up of the parents’ marriage, and that Rodolfo, too, comes with his own set of familial baggage. Lelio clearly demonstrates this during the course of the evening; as Benjamín Echazarreta’s camera envelopes Gloria, creating both a sense of claustrophobia and of familiarity, Rodolfo obviously feels more and more excluded and he disappears to take a 'phone call. When he fails to return, we begin to understand that he has no intention of reciprocating this family meeting.
García is mesmerising. It’s a little unfortunate that she bears more than a passing resemblance to Dustin Hoffman in his Tootsie role, however, one soon forgets that as Gloria comes alive. It’s impossible not to admire this woman’s energy and her resolute desire to ward off loneliness and García plays her with just the right mix of tenderness and toughness. She deservedly won the Silver Bear for Best Actress at the 2013 Berlin Film Festival for her performance. This is about as real as it gets on screen. Umberto Tozzi’s rousing original version of the fabulous disco classic Gloria will make you want to jump out of your seat at the movie’s end and join in the celebration.