Chilean actress Paulina García stars as a divorced woman looking for love in Santiago in 'Gloria.' (Roadside Attractions)
Built around a surprisingly sensual yet thoroughly grounded performance by Chilean actress Paulina Garcia, “Gloria” manages to mix the ecstatic and tragic in with the absolutely mundane.
In other words, director Sebastian Lelio, who co-wrote the screenplay with Gonzalo Maza, is going for something likelife here. Yet at the same time he’s framing his story with visual invention — check out what this guy can do with a hair dryer — and couching it in compassion. The result is somewhat magical.
Gloria is a divorced woman, seemingly in her early 50s, living in Santiago and still hitting a local disco at night; she’s not so much desperate as open. One night she meets Rudolfo (Sergio Hernandez) there and he ends up spending the night.
Rudolfo, it turns out, is recently divorced, has had gastric bypass surgery and owns a local amusement park. He’s also the sole financial and emotional support of his ex-wife and two adult daughters. So, even though he falls madly in love with Gloria, he’s always being torn away.
The ebb and flow of their relationship serves as the film’s plot, but Lelio is far more interested in painting a portrait of a full, mature woman in middle age. Gloria has a sly smile, sings along with the radio in her car, puts up with a cat that keeps showing up in her apartment, and endures an upstairs neighbor who’s going through a very vocal breakdown.
Over the course of the film, she weathers her grown son’s single parenthood, encounters her ex-husband and watches her pregnant daughter fly off to Sweden. These are adult realities and “Gloria” is that rare work, a truly adult film. By its end, you want to cheer the simple act of living.
Rated R for sexual content, some graphic nudity, drug use and language
Running time: 110 minutes