- Eddie Harrison
- 3 June 2019
Julianne Moore excels yet again as Sebastián Lelio reworks his breakthrough film
As played by Julianne Moore, Gloria Bell is a lovelorn independent woman in her 50s, something that few films deem worth portraying. Chilean director Sebastián Lelio's film deviates from the norm by being sensitive to Gloria's highs and lows, even if the self-obsessed characters around her are not.
Long divorced with grownup children, Gloria has summoned enough faltering self-confidence to seek out new romance in the Los Angeles nightlife scene. She begins a stuttering relationship with Arnold (John Turturro), who's struggling with his family responsibilities now that he's out of the marital home. After Arnold lets Gloria down in a painfully public way, she's left with a choice: get him to shape up, or risk ending up alone.
Reworking his 2013 breakthrough (which won a trio of prizes at Berlinale, including for its lead actress Paulina García) for an English-speaking audience, Lelio has an ideal lead in Moore; she uses a dowdy pastel wardrobe, oversized glasses and a series of rather lank hairdos to help cement Gloria as a three-dimensional character.
A regrettable weakness is the overstated way that Lelio tries to provide an unambiguous guide to the main character's emotions; the use of on-the-nose pop music – by acts like Air Supply and Bonnie Tyler – to reflect Gloria's state-of-mind is initially cute, but soon becomes strained. A scene where Gloria mulls over Arnold's persistent approaches on her phone while watching a puppet of a skeleton dance feels too rote in its symbolic representation of Gloria's fear of mortality.
However, such quibbles are banished by the rousing conclusion: two scenes which nail its protagonist's change of personality through clear, overt action. Moreover, in Gloria Bell, Moore gives one of her most sympathetic performances, ringing true as a mature, gutsy woman who won't let her age, or the failings of men, define her.
Selected release from Thu 6 Jun.