If you're coming to Gloria thinking of a connection with John Cassavetes' popular 1980 potboiler, you've got another think coming (despite the fact that, not far from the film's ending, there is a sly nod to that film thrown in). Also, if you're coming to Gloria unaware of Chilean director Sebastián Lelio's strength in well-observed personal relationships - so crisply presented in his well underrated debut La Sagrada Familia - you'll be waiting for the other shoe to drop all throughout this fourth feature of his. It's an unsurprisingly logic expectation seeing as most modern Latin American cinema seems to carry within it the memory and seed of the region's political turmoil throughout the second half of the 20th century, waiting to be unleashed whether directly or metaphorically - and Gloria is produced by Pablo Larraín, whose own work as a director has been rooted in Chile's recent and tragic history.

     You could definitely force a political reading on the tale of Gloria, the divorced fifty-something struggling to move forward with her life even at her age, but that would really be over-egging a pudding that has no need for extra ingredients and came out pretty well in the first place. Gloria, in a star-making performance from veteran Paulina García, is neither a symbol nor a stand-in - just a woman making her way through a complicated life and unwilling to settle for second best, even as the world keeps pushing her into situations she isn't necessarily ready for. From the neighbor's cat that keeps sneaking into her flat despite her dislike of felines to her occasionally over-desperate need for some sort of contact (visible in the way she keeps trying to connect with her two grown-up kids), Gloria is really stuck in a rut she might not be aware of. The centre of the story is her meet-cute with the gentlemanly Rodolfo (Sergio Hernández), a charmingly old-fashioned man who may just be what she needs to get out of her rut, if it weren't for his mysterious attachment to his troubled ex-wife and daughter, suggesting there's more to this kind but ultimately incapable to commit gentleman than meets the eye.

     What comes out of this is a cheerful tale of feminine empowerment that may seem slight but rings wonderfully true, in no small part thanks to the force of nature that is Ms. García, in one of those powerhouse performances that not only make the film but are the film. That is not to say there isn't anything else beyond the actress; there is indeed, a story and a director that embrace the vibrancy of humanity in all its complexity, refraining from passing judgment and reveling in the fact that starting from scratch may not be just a dream but an actual necessity.

Cast: Paulina García, Sergio Hernández
Director: Sebastián Lelio
Screenplay: Mr. Lelio, Gonzalo Maza
Cinematography: Benjamín Echazarreta (colour)
Designer: Marcela Urivi
Costumes: Eduardo Castro
Editors: Soledad Salfate, Mr. Lelio
Producers: Juan de Díos Larraín, Pablo Larraín, Mr. Lelio, Mr. Maza (Fabula in co-production with Nephilim Producciones, Muchas Gracias and Forastero)
Chile/Spain, 2013, 108 minutes

Screened: Berlin Film Festival 2013 official competition advance press screening, Berlinale Palast (Berlin), February 10th 2013


Popular Posts