Synopsis: A story about a middle aged woman who gets caught up in a passionate whirlwind romance with a retired naval officer, whom she meets at a dance club for singles. But when she discovers the truth of their relationship, she takes matters into her own hands and sets forth to change her life.
eyelights: Paulina Garcia. its realistic portrayal of Gloria’s life. its dignified sex scenes.
eyesores: its inherent sadness.
‘Gloria’ is a 2013 drama about an older woman looking for love to help quell the loneliness she feels every day; she is divorced, her children are grown up but distant, and her life is mostly punctuated by going out dancing. It was the Chilean entry at the 2014 Academy Awards.
Frankly, it was a disappointment to me. Hear me out: I saw the poster, which shows the film’s protagonist beaming, with her arms outstretched, and imagined something uplifting. And, seriously, the DVD’s synopsis cemented this impression; it made it seem like a life-affirming tale.
It was anything but.
Don’t get me wrong: ‘Gloria’ is well-told and perfectly-performed; it’s an excellent film. But I suppose it was a question of expectations; if it hadn’t been sold as an upbeat picture, perhaps I wouldn’t be as down on it as I am. I wanted to have fun, to feel good watching it.
Instead, I came out of it feeling a bit sad: Gloria is extremely lonely and you feel it in her daily travails. Although she has fun dancing and meeting people, she goes home alone to a cat that isn’t hers and to the sounds of her upstairs neighbour having psychological meltdowns.
And her closest friend may be her maid.
She isn’t exactly living “the life”.
One day she meets Rodolfo at a dance and they immediately click; there’s an instant attraction and passion between them. But even that developing relationship is punctuated by moments of uncertainty as he takes constant calls from his daughters, who are dependent on him.
He is so constrained by his relationships with them and even his ex-wife (whom he claims to have divorced a year ago) that he they take precedence over Gloria – whether it be at her son’s birthday celebration or even on a holiday together. Gloria has to choose between passion and respect.
But whatever her choices are, no matter how broad a smile she forces upon her face, one gets the impression that she is deluding herself for the sake of momentary happiness, that it’s not real. Even the closer, which finds her bringing forth her happier self to go dance feels contrived.
Look, it’s a realistic portrayal of what it’s like for some people in their later years. I have a friend who finds it very difficult to remain in touch with her adult son, and sometimes struggles with not having someone in her life. I mean, we all want to be appreciated, loved, and desired, right?
And ‘Gloria’ does a terrific job of expressing this, it really does. Some people will watch this and relate to its namesake and her journey; it might even be meaningful to them. But, personally, I found it a bit dispiriting; it didn’t really offer hope – just the mundanity of daily sameness.
Adding to this was my growing frustration with Rodolfo, who kept his phone on even when he was with Gloria. Out of respect, he should switch it off. But, no, he was enslaved by his daughters. And then he would just walk out on Gloria to go take care of his family. He was never fully present.
On the positive, the picture is punctuated by a magnificent performance by its lead, Paulina Garcia, who is capable of expressing all the nuances of Gloria’s personality. It’s just amazing to see how she can glow with happiness one moment, and then affect a melancholic look next.
In some ways she reminded me of Diane Keaton, and I couldn’t help but imagine that Keaton would be perfectly cast in a North American remake of this; she certainly has the range and skill. And she wouldn’t be afraid of doing the sex scenes, of which there were a good handful.
Frankly, I was pretty impressed with the guts of the actors to show themselves off having sex at their advanced age. Not because it should be embarrassing, but because it hasn’t been normalized enough yet that everyone would appreciate it. I thought that it was done with dignity.
…as opposed to having it played for laughs, as it frequently is in North America.
And it could be sexy: There was this one moment when Gloria was just about to walk out on Rodolfo and, after hearing his many pleas, decides to take charge, pins him down and !@#$ his brains out. It was super hot, and it’s not something you’ll see often with actors that age.
In any event, for all its positive qualities, I found myself counting the clock while watching ‘Gloria’. The moment that I realized that it wouldn’t be the joy I expected it to be, I felt mildly burdened by it. I really would have wanted to have seen something full of zest for life.
But that’s just not ‘Gloria’.
Date of viewing: May 23, 2016