Gloria (2013) / Drama-Comedy

MPAA Rated: R for sexual content, some graphic nudity, drug use and language
Running Time: 110 min.

Cast: Paulina Garcia, Sergio Hernandez, Diego Fontecilla, Fabiola Zamora, Luz Jimenez, Alejandro Golic, Liliana Garcia, Coca Guazzini, Hugo Moraga
Director: Sebastian Lelio
Screenplay: Sebastian Lelio, Gonzalo Maza

Review published January 28, 2014

Paulina Garcia (Casa de Remolienda, Las Analfabetas) stars as 58-year-old Gloria Cumplido, fourteen years removed from her marriage, lonely in her life, heading to local discos and singles mixers in the hope she can rekindle love and find companionship now that her children have all grown up and moved on with busy lives of their own. She ends up meeting an recently separated retired Naval officer and current recreation park owner named Rodolfo Fernandez (Hernandez, No) who courts and woos Gloria, though his own relationship with his ex-wife and grown daughters proves to be a severe impediment in providing the love and attention Gloria is seeking.

Gloria is a dramedy from Chile, the country's submission for the Academy Awards consideration (it was not a final selection) for Best Foreign Language film. Directed by Sebastian Lelio (The Sacred Family, Christmas), it's a slow-moving piece, relying heavily on music to set the mood and tempo, interspersed with moments of humor and mirth, yet serves mostly as a drama about the bout with loneliness that many single divorcees feel once the nest is completely empty. The screenplay from Lelio and Gonzola Maza (El Ano del Tigre, Casado con Hijos) doesn't deliver a great deal of noteworthy moments, but the quality of the very natural, mostly improvised dialogue gives each scene a true-to-life feel, even when some of the events seem like they might take off into sitcom land.

While the interplay among the characters suggest a great deal of family problems and anguish, there are some narrative lulls that feel a bit prolonged in the film, and story threads that are introduced, especially during a lengthy birthday-party dinner sequence, that don't really pan out, but do give the feeling that these are heavily nuanced characters with long histories with one another we're not privy to. Gloria has persistent issues with her upstairs neighbor, who goes off on abusive tirades in the middle of the night, while his hairless pet cat keeps visiting Gloria's apartment uninvited. Protests go on in the street, but we're not entirely in on just what this tumult might have to do with Gloria's romantic quests -- is the outcry of the country speaking to the unrest she feels in her heart?

Garcia is very strong in the lead role, giving her character the kind of wallflower-with-spunk personality that a latter-day Diane Keaton would often deliver in such movies as Something's Gotta Give, if she were to wear oversized eyeglasses, a la Dustin Hoffman in Tootsie. She is the one that sells the movie best, putting herself all in to the film, showing off dance moves, bungee jumps, and baring skin in ways most actresses of her age wouldn't dare to try. The love scenes between Gloria and Rodolfo aren't going to go down as the most sensual in film history, but they speak to a certain vulnerability in both partners to accept each other for their phsyical flaws, as Rodolfo in particular has a great deal of sagging skin after undergoing gastric bypass surgery and losing over a hundred lbs. of fat. He wears a girdle at all other times to keep it from being too obvious, and Gloria's insistence on its removal speaks to her wishing for Rodolfo to remove all of his many barriers that stand in the way of them being completely together, both physically and emotionally. As Gloria tries to break free of her past to finally move forward, Rodolfo can't find a way to shake the shackles that keep him from every fully embracing anything else.

Gloria represents the kind of movie that filmmakers rarely endeavor to make, of how single older women must deal with a great deal of loneliness when they're trying to rekindle the lost spark in their lives from their youth. It exposes the insecurity of putting oneself back out there and letting it all hang out, especially knowing that as one gets to a certain age, the more baggage we carry with us, and the more wear and tear on our aging bodies. And ultimately, it's a rare film in which a woman finds that, to feel whole and complete, rather than to find the love of a good man to give her lots of attention, she must find a way to love herself before she can move forward in life.

Qwipster's rating:

2014 Vince Leo