Movie Review - Gloria

Paulina Garcia in "Gloria"
This was the official submission of Chile to the 86th Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film. It didn't get the nomination, but it certainly represents the pinnacle of filmmaking to come out of South America or Latin America. It did win three awards at the 2013 Berlin International Film Festival. It won the 2013 National Board of Review Award for Top Five Foreign Language Films. It was also nominated for the 2014 Spirit Awards for Best International Film.

Director Sebastián Lelio is perhaps Chile's version of Mike Leigh (Another Year and Happy-Go-Lucky). This film focuses on the life, love and friendships of a woman of a certain age. It stars Paulina Garcia who plays Gloria Cumplido, a divorced woman with two adult children, a son Pedro and a daughter Ana. She's also a grandmother. Pedro has a son who's no older than two.

Being a grandmother doesn't stop her from working and spending her weekend nights in dance clubs with her friends. She's probably in her fifties, but she's very much a regular woman and very much alive, even though in the beginning she might not totally realize it.

The first time we see her in the dance club, she's a bit of a wallflower. We get the impression that she's recently divorced or is at a point where she's only recently ready to get back out into the single's scene. As such, she's a bit cautious. There's also a point where Gloria has to separate herself from her role as mother and grandmother to that of single woman, perhaps back into a mode she probably hasn't been in 30 years or so.

What helps her to get back into that mode is her meeting of Rodolfo, played by Sergio Hernández. He's a man who's probably in his late fifties or so, maybe sixties. He runs an amusement center called Vertigo Park, which features a bungee jump and a paintball shoot. He has daughters and an ex-wife but Rodolfo keeps them at a distance. Yet, despite being divorced, he's also dealing with body image issues.

Rodolfo has recently had gastric bypass surgery. He's never shy about taking off his clothes and having sex with Gloria, but his self-esteem stems from putting a dividing line between his family and his budding relationship with Gloria. He separates or keeps a distance between the two. Gloria doesn't have this dividing line. She asks him about this dividing line and his self-esteem and abandonment issues come out. It's not him being ashamed of his body but the shame that clearly comes from his family dumping on him.

The contrast to that is Gloria. Having to deal with him and his issues pushes her not to be hindered by her looks or what others think of her looks or the fact that she's dating again. It would be odd, if she were hindered because she is a beautiful woman with a very healthy libido. She wears thick glasses but she actually has a pretty face. She also dresses very well and in ways that show off her very sexy body that makes you think she's not a grandmother. One shot has her full-frontal naked and still you'd think she's not a grandmother with glaucoma.

Paulina Garcia's performance is superb. It's as superb, or even better than the female protagonists in any of Mike Leigh's films. Lelio's direction and co-writing are equally superb. I like the metaphorical images and spiritual animals Lelio invokes like the hairless cat or the all-white peacock, as well as the dancing skeleton puppet. All of which are reflections of Gloria in the moments that we see them.

My favorite though would have to be the image, which also dominates the film's poster, of Gloria on a merry-go-round, spinning free. It's just perfectly indicative of the ride that she embraces in her personal life. She's not spinning out of control, but in that scene a man is spinning her around. She's drunk with glee but eventually she has to get off and sober up. She by the end realizes that if she wants to spin free, she'll have to do it on her own without a man pushing her around.

It got a limited release in January here in the United States. It might be overlooked and forgotten as the year moves forward, but it stands as one of the best of 2014. It's charming. It's sexy. It's heartbreaking, and it's empowering. Great work!

Five Stars out of Five.
Rated R for sexual content, some graphic nudity, drug use and language.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 49 mins.


Popular Posts