Film review: Gloria of love might be all-solo

Published by the Alternate Dream


Chile-Spain. 2012.

Directed by Sebastian Lelio

My rating: 3 out of 5

My first watch from the exciting Love series this year takes the familiarly cinematic route of narrating the life of one individual. The title character, Gloria, is a 10-years divorcee middle-aged Chilean played magnificently by Paulina Garcia who got the Silver Bear for her performance.

Gloria bristles with life. Not “life” as in a fetishized cliché that attracts the adjective “lively” from the writers without many words but raw, real, crude and at-times brutal life in all its magnificence. Gloria has a healthy physique and a refreshing appetite for life. Her children don’t seem to be leading healthy lives but she maintains a healthy presence in their lives. The film depicts the struggles of Gloria for life, including an affair with a recent divorcee which is the centerpiece of the film.

The film is rich because the personas it builds are more than just the title character. We see the mentally challenged young man, Gloria’s neighbor, whose outbursts doesn’t let her sleep; Her daughter who is fed up with her broken family and marries a Swedish hiker who takes her to Europe; The ex-husband who regrets not having been in his children’s lives; and Gloria’s lover who, despite all his pronouncements for wanting a new beginning in life, is unable to decide what he wants. His indecisions embarrass the strong Gloria who pushes him off her life.

Gloria finishes where it began: Gloria dancing on the stage, full of life, but solo.  This is how it challenges the standard definitions of “happy life.” Gloria’s lover seems to be much more into those definitions. After all, he has done a surgery to get rid of his fat and owns an amusement park that is the stuff of YOLO crowd dreams. But at the end, it’s the gorgeous and strong Gloria, snapping her fingers on the dance floor and twisting alone, who seems to have come off victorious, even she has given up the love affair. She who sings along to cheesy love songs, alone in her car. Her strong face is likely to remain with us for some time.

Gloria was made by the producers of No and includes subtle references to the political context of today’s Chile, reeling after the catastrophe of Pinochet years. Cynic old intellectuals who believe Chile they knew has died forever surface here too. So do the Communist-led student protests that made the world headlines. They seem to win the admiration of our Gloria too. If Gloria promises anything, it’s that Chilean society will give birth to many new great events, both movements and films.

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