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Gloria proves how age should never let our love for life fade

Gloria could have easily been like every other movie of its kind. An older woman still trying to enjoy life falls in love with a man and discovers that he has been the missing piece in her lonely existence all along. There are some laughs, some tears and the audience goes home feeling thoroughly uplifted.

But director Sebastián Lelio chose to go deeper into this Spanish language comedy-drama about the titular Gloria, a free-spirited older woman who falls into a relationship with a troubled, ex-naval officer after a night of whirlwind passion. This film isn’t about whether the two live happily ever after. It isn’t about a woman in her “sunset years” trying to reclaim her increasingly distant youth. Gloria is about exploring the kind of dynamic, multi-faceted character so often absent in the cinema landscape today. Gloria is about one woman’s intoxicating and deeply intense love for life.

Divorced for 12 years and hovering around 60 years old, Gloria (Paulina García) lets neither of these things define her. She goes to clubs. She plays paintball. She does yoga. She visits her adult children, her single-father son (Diego Fontecilla) and her pregnant daughter (Fabiola Zamora) preparing to marry her Swedish boyfriend.

Yet there’s a quiet sheen of loneliness and desperation shrouding all that she does. Enter Rodolfo (Sergio Hernández), who sweeps her off of her feet at a club and introduces her to a world of companionship that she seems to have always secretly longed for. As the relationship continues, however, recently divorced Rodolfo’s strange relationship with his ex-wife and his two adult daughters as well as Gloria’s own control issues threaten to pull them apart.

García’s incredible performance is what really breathes life into this film. Adept at weaving small flashes of sadness and isolation into Gloria’s otherwise sunny demeanor, García provides an insight into her character as few actresses prior to her have done. Gloria was Chile’s submission for this year’s “Best Foreign Language Film” and, although it was not selected as a nominee, it is easy to imagine a “Best Actress” nomination for García as well in an alternate universe.

The cinematography is relatively simple in comparison to the events that unfold onscreen, but stunningly so, thanks to cinematographer Benjamín Echazarreta. The camera lingers on Gloria’s face in order to catch the fleeting emotions as she listens to Rodolfo read her a love poem. It levels the viewer with a lively dancing skeleton puppet that catches Gloria’s eye in the airport. The camera hovers with intense scrutiny on Gloria’s face, attempting to get the audience to look past the character’s age to see a universal truth of life and experience beneath. The long, static shots might be boring for some, but serve to fully immerse us in the world of the film.

The camera is also starkly honest, determined to capture everything onscreen. It would have been easy to take a more cinematically traditional route and to forgo the intimate scenes between the Gloria and Rodolfo, both of whom are “past their prime,” and therefore dissonant from society’s standards of beauty. Instead, the love scenes are unflinchingly open, taking in every dark spot and every wrinkle without worries of propriety or precedent.

Just as Gloria herself is layered, such is the case with the film›s script. While the story focuses on Gloria’s life and her budding relationship with Rodolfo, it also interlaces ideas about what every person owes to family, as well as to self, that give the film a universal appeal. Beneath all of this are notes of the unrest and uncertainty in Chile’s political past that pop up every so often as the film progresses. Though a noble attempt at social commentary, these elements of the story seem extraneous and aren’t compatible with the other parts of the film. The characters’ struggles with obligations and expectations are more than enough to satiate the viewer without the added political elements.

It would have been all too easy to make Gloria a cliché: an older woman refusing to accept her age and desperately grasping at shreds of lost youth. Instead, Gloria goes home with men her own age. She dresses conservatively, yet elegantly. She enjoys some of the wilder activities in life, but remains grounded as a loving mother to her children. She is perfectly comfortable in her own skin, a feat so rare in modern cinema for both older woman and younger women alike. If nothing else, Gloria should serve as a lively celebration of the kind of love we are all capable of feeling and the kind of life we are all capable of living regardless of age, gender or just about anything else.

One Comment

  1. nicely done, keep going to the movies