Sebastian Lelio's gentle, plaintive character study is elevated by Paulina Garcia's glowing central performance.
One constant criticism of Hollywood films is that older women become invisible. Forty is a dangerous age in an industry beguiled by a teenage demographic. Ironic then that some of the autumn's best films focus on older women, from Judi Dench's determined mother in Philomena to Sandra Bullock's heroic astronaut in the extraordinary Gravity. Gloria won a Best Actress prize for Chile's Paulina Garcia at the Berlin Film Festival this year and offers a compassionate view of a lonely fifty-something divorcee still searching for love, sex and lasting affection.
Sporting unflattering, oversized glasses and chestnut hair, Gloria has a disconcerting resemblance to Dustin Hoffman's Dorothy Michaels in Tootsie. She lives alone in a Santiago apartment, rarely seeing a son and daughter who have busy lives of their own. Rather than shutting the door and feeling sorry for herself, she boldly heads to older singles nights where the dance floor beckons and flirting is positively encouraged. She is a woman with an endearing ability to accentuate the positive. One evening, she meets former naval officer and recent divorce Rodolfo (Sergio Hernandez). Awkward, disappointing sex does not deter her from the possibility of a relationship despite the fact that he appears to be at the beck and call of his grown-up daughters and needy ex-wife. The film explores the humiliations and indignities she is willing to tolerate in pursuit of happiness.
Sebastian Lelio's Gloria bears no resemblance to John Cassevetes' 1980 film of the same name but there is a similar raw, rambling emotion in Paulina Garcia's touching performance. She is like a grittier Shirley Valentine, pluckily seeking to make more of herself, a theme underlined by a life-affirming climax to Umberto Tozzi's enduring hit single. A gentle, plaintive character study elevated by a glowing central performance.
Limited release from Fri 1 Nov.