DIR: Sebastián Lelio • WRI: Sebastián Lelio,, Gonzalo Maza • PRO: Juan de Dios Larraín, Pablo Larraín • DOP: Benjamín Echazarreta • ED: Sebastián Lelio, Soledad Salfate • DES: Marcela Urivi • CAST: Paulina García, Sergio Hernández, Diego Fontecilla, Fabiola Zamora
An august film focusing on the autumnal years of life, Gloria tells the story of a Chilean divorcée, coping with her loneliness, her grown-up children and the possibilities of new romance. It unfolds very slowly but ultimately satisfies.
We first see Gloria drinking alone in a bar filled with other middle-aged people and taking to dancing by herself. Pop music seems to fill a gap in her life: we see her singing along in her car to “silly love songs”, yearning for a new romance. She visits her children, Pedro, a violinist, and Ana, a yoga teacher, with whom she also takes classes. She also goes to laughter therapy, filling the lonely hours of her life outside work. A hairless cat appears in her apartment, but she’s determined not to become that kind of lonely lady. Gloria meets Rodolfo, who runs an amusement park, and a new romance begins.
Its central characters are people who have been married and have been very much in love. Rodolfo, divorced for just about a year, remains deeply involved with his ex-wife and his children. Gloria has moved on, still taking an interest in her children’s life, but capable of letting her daughter move to Sweden and thanking her ex-husband’s new partner when she arranges a family get-together. Gloria plays very much as a character study: its story is slight, dramatic events are few, and its success rests on the actors’ abilities.
Luckily, Paulina García, as Gloria, carries the film very well. It’s an honest, compassionate and engaging performance. She’s on screen almost constantly for the film’s running time, managing to give her character a depth that the script possibly couldn’t on its own. She certainly deserved the Silver Bear for Best Actress at Berlin earlier this year.
This is director Sebastián Lelio’s fourth feature, and his experience shows. The visual style suits its content. Much of it is shot in intimate close-ups, and the film is to be commended for its candid depiction of a mature sex life.
In the recent Enough Said, Julia Louis-Dreyfuss and James Gandolfini, played divorcées coming together. Whereas that film played mostly for laughs, Gloria is a richer work, though its pace may irritate some. The lack of a neater narrative means that the script sometimes diverges unnecessarily into other subjects: a dinnertime discussion reveals little interesting about either contemporary Chilean society or the film’s characters.
Pablo Larraín, the director of last year’s Academy Award nominated No, which told the story of how Chile’s “Mad Men” helped end Pinochet’s dictatorship, served as a producer on Gloria, which now represents Chile in the forthcoming race for the Oscar for Best Foreign Film. García’s charming work may very well be enough to win over the Academy.
Gloria is released on 1st November 2013