Posted by martinteller on February 18, 2014
Gloria (Paulina Garcia) is a middle-aged divorceé. Her children Diego (Diego Fontecilla) and Ana (Fabiola Zamora) are grown and in charge of their own lives. She hasn’t seen her ex-husband Gabriel (Alejandro Golic) since the divorce 10 years ago. Gloria is comfortable in her own skin, she has a satisfying career and enjoys going out to nightclubs and dancing. She seems equally at home dancing by herself as with a partner. She flirts, she dates, but doesn’t appear to be actively pursuing a relationship. And then along comes Rodolfo (Sergio Hernández), a former military man who now runs an amusement park. Rodolfo is charming and kind and sensual, and Gloria enjoys her time with him enough to invite him to a family function. But Rodolfo is recently divorced and still in the grips of his ex-wife and two grown but spoiled and inept daughters. And now Gloria must choose between the freedom of independence or the dubious comforts of a distracted — and flaky — partner.
The trailer for this movie makes it look like a quirky romcom. Although there are some terrific comic moments, it’s primarily an understated drama, a measured character study. I tend to enjoy films of this ilk, dramas that don’t need big moments or stressful crises to be compelling, and this fit nicely into that mold. Garcia gives a wonderful performance, reminiscent of Carmen Maura (particularly in Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown) in both looks and demeanor. Gloria is instantly likable and seems to arrive onscreen fully-formed. She isn’t missing something in her life, the movie isn’t going to “fix” her. She’s strong and self-assured and fun. This may make the film disappointing to some, as Gloria doesn’t exactly have an arc. But perhaps it’s more a circular arc, as she allows herself into a vulnerable situation and emerges from it not really transformed but more certain of herself. If nothing else, it’s just interesting to watch how this character handles certain situations. It feels very genuine and nuanced.
There are a number of political references throughout the film that made me wonder if there was another layer of meaning at work. Some sort of rally on the television in the background, Gloria passes a demonstration, Rodolfo’s former service in the Navy and a line of dialogue about how “men like to play war”, and most blatantly, a dinner discussion about the political climate and the generational differences in approaches to revolution. Is director Sebastian Lelio suggesting that the older generation needs to let go and allow the youth of Chile to lead the country, the way Rodolfo needs to let go of his past and quit taking care of his grown children? Is Gloria’s independence a metaphor for Chile’s independence? Or am I reaching too far, and perhaps the political sphere is simply inevitably part of the background in a film about Chile? I’ve never been particularly astute at picking up on political allegory, so perhaps I look for it too closely to compensate.
The movie is a bit sluggish at times, and the ending takes too much time to illustrate things that I feel we already know about Gloria, or can reasonably deduce how she’d act. Perhaps some fat could be trimmed to make a stronger storyline emerge. But I really enjoyed watching this movie. It has well-tuned performances (particularly from Garcia) and a refreshing take on middle-aged romance and sexuality. It doesn’t go for cheap shots or silly bathos or grandiose plot twists. A film with a strong lead character and some nice charms, though they could use a little more substance. Rating: Good (76)