Gloria, Chile's Submission for the Academy Award Nomination for Best Foreign Language Film. U.S. : Roadside Attractions. International Sales Agent: Funny Balloons
Acculturated by the constant reinforcement on the media, most audiences are only capable of associating passion, sensuality, and exhilaration with young people. All other age groups above 20 or perhaps 30 years seem to be thought of reminders of times past, left to ponder the joys of better days rather than being seekers of even more profound experiences. In his magnificent film Gloria, Sebastián Lelio demystifies such preconceptions of individuals in midlife. He bestows on his characters a certain candor that makes them hard to look away from and provides us with an incredibly delightful cinematic ride.
Rekindling her ability to be amused is a task the eponymous character, Gloria (Paulina García), an older divorced woman, diligently works on everyday. She goes out dancing by herself expecting nothing beyond having a great time. Sure, if a gentleman approaches her she won’t deny herself the pleasure of his company. However, it is evident that her glowing happiness is grounded on her own love for living, not on the attention of men. Gloria sings fervently to classic love songs wherever she feels the urge to do so and she shows no signs of disabling inhibitions. She is truly content. One night, as she lets loose to the rhythm of the music she meets Rodolfo (Sergio Hernández), an older man who is instantly infatuated with her joyous demeanor. Their friendship quickly blossoms into a fiery romance that reminds them both of what they were missing in their lives. Gloria is an open book, but her disposition to include Rodolfo in every facet of her existence, including her role as a mother, is not shared by her new companion. Having just had gastric bypass surgery, and still financially responsible for his adult, unemployed daughters and ex-wife, he is seems unwilling or unable to make their relationship a priority.
Autumnal love is sporadically explored in modern cinema, but here, Leilo shows imperfect bodies making love with the ardor of a teenage couple. Gloria gives herself a second chance and sees unfortunate twists as she steps up to get to something even better. Living in the moment is one of her talents. As she tries bungee jumping or practices yoga or seeks a very comedic paintball-shooting revenge, for her these are all just new opportunities to grow. Her children Pedro (Diego Fontecilla) and Ana (Fabiola Zamora) have their lives in place, and though she loves them, she knows they are following their own paths and she has to continue to shape her own fate. Sitting at the table with her them, her ex-husband, his new wife, and Rodolfo, Gloria contemplates all aspects of her life, the good and the bad, and has no regrets, just raw emotion to share.
Effortlessly captivating, Paulina Garcia is irreverent, full of heart, and essentially as glorious as her name implies. It is impossible not to fall in love with Gloria’s charisma and reinvigorating will to enjoy every second of the day. She is blessed with an unbreakable positivism, and even when the cards she is dealt are not all that favorable, she laughs it off and moves to the next adventure. Sebastian Leilo created a fearless character that is inspiring, mature, and who is living proof that is never too late for reinvention. Crafted by both actress and director, this is an astonishing performance up there with the best of the year from any female lead.
Uplifting like very few other films, Gloria is a work achieved with incredible sincerity and it embodies a joie de vivre sentiment
that is rapturous. Undoubtedly, the film places its director, Sebastian Leilo, on par with other masters of characterization as he shows his mastery of hitting the
right tone and nuances to create a powerful story with a female protagonist, a sort of Chilean Woody Allen. Unmistakably truthful to his national
particularities, yet engaging for everyone else, Gloria is an unforgettable, not-to-be missed, near perfect film.
Read Sydney Levine's interview with Sebastian Leilo and Pauline Garcia at TIFF HERE.