“Gloria”: A Woman of a Certain Age Redefines Her Life

Gloria, directed by Sebastian Lelio and co-written with Gonzalo Maza, is a new Chilean movie starring Paulina Garcia. Critic David Edelstein, Vulture, introduces and summarizes the film:

You don’t have to be middle-aged (although it helps) to recognize that love affairs get more interesting later in life — say, 58, the age of the woman at the center of the happy-horrible seesaw that is Gloria…I mean interesting because there are so many more variables. Physical degeneration, obviously. But also children who are grown and whose absence leaves a void — or who refuse to leave the nest and are a different kind of pain. Or ex-spouses who might or might not have found mates and have fluctuating levels of resentment, which results in emotional geometry that borders on the Higher Math. Another variable implicit in Gloria: The status — the desirability quotient — of post-menopausal women, chiefly determined by aging men who behave as if they’re irresistible to firmer-fleshed younger females. Gloria doesn’t lie about a woman’s dwindling options. It’s rife with disappointment and humiliation. But bleakness does not preclude buoyancy. It still manages to leave you with the urge to dance.

Another reviewer takes us further into the story. Ella Taylor, NPR:

Gloria is close to her family, but she’s clinging to the edge of a world of which she was once the center. For a while we see her only in confined spaces: Even at the dance club where she goes to have fun and hunt for love, she seems hemmed in. Until, that is, she locks eyes with Rodolfo (Sergio Hernandez), a handsome, age-appropriate man with whom she feels such immediate rapport that they end up in bed that night. Their naked lovemaking is candidly shot and as avid as it is awkward…

Rodolfo, you see, will turn out to be only a slightly exaggerated version of the emotionally draining screw-up many survivors of the dating circuit will recognize with a wince. Yet both he and Gloria are both bewildered casualties of a radically modernized Chile in which the demand for individual rights has displaced a more traditional emphasis on obligations.

Interspersed between romantic and family relationships are various ways Gloria keeps busy, including doing such things as yoga and laughter therapy. You can watch the trailer below, though I think it spoils some key elements of the film:

Who is Gloria?

Ella Taylor, NPR: “Gloria takes a drubbing or five, but she’s never less than a woman who insists on a pleasurable life of her own. Her appetite for living pulses in the music she croons along to while driving, or waxing her legs, from syrupy ’70s pop to bossa nova. And yes, in the classic disco song that shares her name and lights her way to becoming, at last, the star of her own firmament.”

J.R. Jones, Chicago Reader: “This is a driven, indelible character — like the women Gena Rowlands played for John Cassavetes — and you fear her going over the edge not least because you suspect you’d follow her.”

What About Rodolfo?

Chris Nashawaty, ew.com: “…(A)n older, more reserved man who hasn’t cut the ties to his marriage but is awakened by Gloria’s free spirit and voracious appetite in bed.”

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