★★★ / ★★★★
As the camera slowly zooms in on Gloria (Paulina García), a divorcée, having drinks in a singles bar for a certain age, it is demanded that we judge her. For one, everyone else is dancing to the lively music while she sits alone. Is it that she had her turn to dance and is merely taking a break or had she been sitting in that stool since she arrived? Judging by her posture, it can go either way. In every frame, she is the only one wearing glasses. This is strange especially since those around her are at least in their fifties. There are pearls around her neck. Who goes out dancing wearing pearls?
Someone who wants to be noticed.
“Gloria,” based on the screenplay by Sebastián Lelio and Gonzalo Maza, is a perceptive film about a specific character who is drowning in loneliness. But the masterstroke comes in the form of amusing moments happening around her. Sometimes she appreciates them, sometimes she is blind to them. We anticipate how she reacts and just like a real person, she is often unpredictable. Gloria is far from a stock character where she looks sad, thinks sad thoughts, and appearing to want pity. The protagonist demands our attention because she makes an effort to not be in a depressing state. She is one worth rooting for.
The more I looked at Gloria, the more I wanted to get to know her—even if she looks plain or unimpressive. This is the talent of a good performer in its rawest form. García gives Gloria a level of energy where even with scenes that may appear silly or pointless like singing alone in a car radiate so much infectious energy—even if the song she is singing to is quite a downer—that one cannot help but smile. García reminded me of Robert Redford’s style of acting in J.C. Chandow’s “All is Lost” because words are not necessary to convey emotions or thought processes. The style assumes we are sensitive and intelligence audiences.
The picture is uninhibited in showing aging bodies: wrinkles of the hands and faces, sagging breasts and torsos, the spots on one’s back. More movies need to follow this example. Gloria meets a former navy officer named Rodolfo (Sergio Hernández) who just may be her potential life partner. In more commercial American movies about older people finding love, what we often see are kissing—quick pecks on the cheeks or lips, if that—and a scene or two of the couple in bed while covered in blankets. Then a joke is made about old age or being old. The whole thing becomes a bad sitcom.
Here, the approach is entirely different. We see the entire process of courtship on the dance floor, the passionate kissing, the act of taking off clothes, and the lovemaking—without convenient blankets to hide body parts that many are trained to deem unattractive. It is not afraid to show what love and passion might look like in real life. To me, these kinds of images when combined and presented in a specific vision are more romantic than grand speeches about how much one loves another.
Directed by Sebastián Lelio, “Gloria” is poignant is small ways. There are problems in Gloria and Rodolfo’s relationship—issues that may be too high to surmount—and it is often shown that although they are people with flaws, they try to make the best out of less than favorable situations. Through their interactions, we learn what makes each of them happy. And the more we learn, the more tension is gathered because we wonder how much they are willing to overlook each other’s differences that they start sacrificing what they hope to achieve in the first place.