Dir: Sebastián Lelio. Chile-Spain. 2013. 105mins


A delightfully astute and compassionate delve into the life of a 58 year-old divorcee looking for company, romance and perhaps even love, director Sebastián Lelio’s engaging, amusing and oddly uplifting Gloria is a film that will strike a chord with audiences of a certain age. It is driven by a quite wonderful performance from Paulina Garcia, who should snag best actress awards at every festival the film plays at.

Paulina Garcia is quite wonderful in the role – she is in every scene, and does a remarkable job in portraying the fractured and fraying life of a middle-aged woman who is simply seeking affection.

The fourth feature from Lelio (whose other films include La Sagrada Familia and Navidad), Gloria is a simple and straightforward piece of cinema, and while never resorting to any overly clever camera tricks or visual flourishes it succeeds if delivering a gentle drama with a real sense of affection for its lead character. It could fit into the current trend for mature-audience cinema, while also likely to feature on the festival circuit.

Gloria (Garcia) favours singles parties rather than staying in her small Santiago flat all alone (apart from an annoying hairless cat that often sneaks in), and at one dance she meets ex-naval officer Rudolfo (Sergio Hernandez), seven years her senior and newly divorced, and keen to forge out a new life for himself.  She sees the possibly of a loving and possibly permanent relationship, but despite Rudolfo’s enthusiasm the spectre of his ex-wife and two grown-up daughters interrupts their romance.

Favouring large glasses and old songs (she sings in the car by herself), Gloria is a woman caught in a cycle of booze and fractured family relationships. She adores her grown-up son and daughter, and though things are still vaguely tense between them they seem like a vision of family perfection compared to Rudolfo’s family situation – his wife and adult daughters all live together, don’t work and rely on his for money, advice and affection at any time day and night.

She and Rudolfo start a sexual relationship, but any chance of happiness and development seems to be hampered by constant calls by his family. Things come to a head when they drive off for a brief break by the coast, only for him to flee when calls start coming. Gloria resorts to copious amounts of booze, flirting drunkenly with a random man she meets at the hotel casino an ends up waking dishevelled and hungover on the beach.

The film touches on the current political situation in Chile, but at its core this is essentially just one woman’s story.  Paulina Garcia is quite wonderful in the role – she is in every scene, and does a remarkable job in portraying the fractured and fraying life of a middle-aged woman who is simply seeking affection. There are moments of real humour – when she starts dabbling with marijuana or when she takes wonderfully wicked revenge on Rudolfo (that may have some audience members cheering) – and pathos as her sense of inner-strength finally wins through. The final coda of her singing along and dancing (to, naturally, Laura Branigan’s 1982 pop anthem Gloria) at a wedding reception ends the film delightfully – and appropriately – on a real high.

Production companies: Fabula, Nephilim Producciones

International sales: Funny Balloons, www.funny-balloons.com

Producers: Juan de Dios Larrain, Pablo Larrain, Sebastian Lelio, Gonzalo Maza

Executive producers: Juan Ignacio Correa, Mariane Hartard, Rocio Jadue, Andrea Carrasco Stuven

Associate producer: Martin Carcamo

Screenplay: Sebastian Lelio, Gonzalo Maza

Cinematography: Benjamim Echazaretta

Editors: Soledad Salfate, Sebastian Lelio

Production designers: Eduardo Castro, Marcela Urivi

Main cast: Paulina Garcia, Sergio Hernandez, Diego Fontecilla, Fabiola Zamora, Coca Guazzini, Hugo Moraga, Alejandro Goic, Liliana Garcia, Antonia Santa Maria, Luz Jimenez, Marcial Tagle