Like its plain heroine, Chilean film “Gloria” will grow on you after watching it. She is merely an ordinary middle-aged lady at first, and we just observe several things in her daily life which brighten or sadden her, but we gradually see a smart, passionate woman ready for new things and willing to go for whatever she wants. We come to care about her, and we also come to cheer for her, and we are glad to be assured that she will be all right as usual.
As a divorced middle-aged woman, Gloria(Paulina García) is well aware of passing time and following changes in her remaining life, but that does not prevent her from searching for another chance of passion and romance. As shown in the opening scene at her regular nightclubs for singles, she is not a woman reluctant to follow her desire, and we see her coming across the dance floor to someone she knows right after she finishes her drink at the bar. Though only a few nice words are exchanged between them with no particular spark, she does not mind about that; she does yearn for romance, but she is not desperate at all while enjoying her nighttime.
We see more about her as following her daily life on the next day. While she has lived alone since she divorced her husband around 10 years ago, she is a working woman who can take care of herself well, and her relationship with her grown-up children is mostly nice although the gap between them has been growing. She meet and talk with them sometimes, and they are still family to each other, but she feels her children slowly leaving out of her life as they are leading their own lives outside hers.
And there is the loneliness she feels every night when she lies down alone on her bed, and a young couple living upstairs does not help much; they always quarrel with each other for some reason whenever Gloria tries to sleep at night, and that certainly annoys Gloria as much as a small pet cat which always finds a way to come into Gloria’s apartment.
During another usual evening at the nightclub, Gloria comes across a middle-aged guy named Rodolfo(Sergio Hernández), and they soon have a sex not long after they feel the attraction between them and then formally introduce themselves to each other. They are old as reflected by their aging bodies, so it takes some more efforts for them to enjoy their one-night stand, but the movie frankly looks at their naked bodies as well as their desires with warm humor and sensitivity while never making their scene look silly. They are not as young as before, but their hearts still want to enjoy sex, and that is all.
After their brief encounter, Rodolfo calls her again, and Gloria sees the possibility of the romantic relationship between him during their lunch meeting. Like she wants someone who will come into her life, he also wants someone to love, so they begins to spend more time with each other. He takes her to an amusement park, and she has one hell of fun time with a couple of exciting moments including paintball shooting. He also takes her to his home, and he expresses his love toward her through reading a nice romantic poem.
Gloria is not surprised to know that Rodolfo is no Mr. Right at all, but she begins to have reasonable doubts about whether she can move onto the next base with him. While he frankly tells her that he was once very fat(he lost his weight a lot after his gastric surgery so he wears a girdle around his waist) and also confesses that his family still depends on him in spite of his recent divorce with his wife, he does not want to introduce her to his family for his petty reasons, and Gloria begins to see how much he is still stuck with his family. He really likes her, and he is sincere when considering spending his remaining life with her, but he cannot help but answer to his daughters whenever his cellular phone rings.
Gloria tries to understand and accept him as her lover, but she only finds it increasingly difficult. She openly invites him to her family including her ex-husband and his current wife during her son’s birthday party, and everyone seems to enjoy the party together at first, but the mood is disrupted later when Rodolfo suddenly goes outside without any word. Rodolfo has his excuses as before, but, seriously, what kind of a guy can be so inconsiderate to a woman whom he is supposed to love with all his heart?
While we see her feel hurt and frustrated a lot due to her lousy boyfriend, Gloria does not feel sorry about herself at all, and Paulina García, who won Best Actress award at the Berlin International Film Festival early in last year, gives an endearing performance as a sensible independent woman who sometimes makes mistakes but keeps moving on with her mundane life through the passion and sense of humor inside her. Even when she does not say any word, García clearly conveys the thoughts and feelings inside her character to us as carrying the movie with her performance, so we are not so surprised about her eventual decision around the ending, which indubitably please many audiences for its nice payback.
The director/writer Sebastián Lelio also fills his story with small but insightful moments for other characters surrounding Gloria, and I especially like the scene when Gloria and her ex-husband looked around their wedding photos after they enjoyed their son’s birthday party dinner with others. Their good old time is gone now, but they cannot help but be wistful about that time as two people who once lived together in their youthfulness, and we also sense Rodolfo getting uncomfortable as watching them – but his rudeness is still inexcusable none the less.
“Gloria”, which was Chile’s official submission to Best Foreign Language Film category of the 86th Academy Awards, is a sweet, touching character study to be savored. With Umberto Tozzi’s famous song “Gloria” is being played on the background, the movie gives us an ambiguous but ultimately uplifting ending right after Gloria makes up her mind on something, and we cannot help but hooray for her. Regardless of whether it is self-assertion or resignation for her, this lovely lady will continue to love and enjoy her life, you know.