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Gloria - Film Review

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by Richard Leathem (subscribe)
Freelance writer. Melbourne based cinephile. Fond of food.
Published February 23rd 2014
Divorced, Mature & Looking for Love
Director: Sebastian Lelio (La Sagrada Familia, Christmas, El Ano del Tigre)
Cast: Paulina Garcia, Sergio Hernandez, Diego Fontecilla

Women of a certain age don't get much representation in cinema, which makes Gloria all the more welcome. This frank and charming tale of a single, mature Chilean woman looking for love in mostly the wrong places is likely to find plenty of love by those who see it.

gloria paulina garcia
Paulina Garcia hits the dance floor as Gloria

We first meet Gloria at a club populated by other 50-somethings. The disco classics have got the crowd grooving, but Gloria is sitting by herself, striking a lonely figure. Soon though, she's cutting a swathe through the dancing throng and setting her sights on an old acquaintance. Nothing too aggressive, but it's clear what Gloria has on her mind.

During the day Gloria spends her time trying to connect with her adult daughter and son, both of whom seem disinterested in her. Her existence, for whatever reason, is a largely friendless one, with her only interactions being with her cleaning lady and colleagues.

Any expectations though that this is going to be some dreary sob story, thankfully prove misguided. Sure, she may roll her ankle while drunkenly tottering around in high heels every now and then, and she may look eerily like Dorothy from Tootsie at times, but Gloria is not a figure to be ridiculed or pitied. No, this Santiago gal possesses a healthy dose of self-worth. For example, when warning signs start flashing during a burgeoning romance with the basically kind-hearted Rodolfo, Gloria has the good sense to take heed and look out for numero uno.

gloria paulina garcia
Gloria (Paulina Garcia) with new man Rodolfo (Sergio Hernandez) who sets off alarm bells.

Much of Gloria's appeal can be credited to Paulina Garcia's admirably restrained portrayal. She says so much with the subtlest of facial expressions, whether it's a long, studied look or a hint of a smile curling at the corner of her mouth.

Like Garcia's performance, director Lelio avoid showiness. There are so many cliched paths this story could've gone down, but he avoids all of them. This is not a story of desperately trying to recapture youth, it's not a feminist rant about how unfair it is to live in a man's world, it is not a fairytale love story with Prince Charming dashing to the rescue. Even an extended scene of a family re-union where she encounters her ex-husband (and his current wife) is devoid of any of the expected anxiety or histrionics. Gloria, the film and the woman, have too much poise and dignity to be taken over by cheap dramatics.

It's this understated authenticity that makes following Gloria through her trials and tribulations such an increasingly engrossing affair. Let's face it, her pickings are slim, but as a well preserved woman approaching 60, she still has much to offer and yearnings that need to be satisfied.

Ironically, considering how measured her countenance is, Gloria is a sucker for a sentimental love song. The soundtrack is littered with Spanish language classics, including, what else - Umberto Tozzi's Gloria in the pitch-perfect final scene.

This is a liberating tale of an independent woman taking control of her life. As such, Gloria deserves much respect.

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Why? An international crowd-pleaser
Where: At selected cinemas
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