Quest for love, lost youth drives poignant ‘Gloria’
In her youth, Gloria hit the discos and danced the Chilean nights away, grooving to the Andrea True Connection and Umberto Tozzi’s song that used her name.
“Gloria,” a song later remade in America by Laura Branigan, is an ear bug. Try to get it out of your head after seeing “Gloria,” the movie about this divorcee who finds herself reliving her past in the over-50 dating scene of modern-day Chile.
Gloria, played by Paulina Garcia with a sort of fierce victimhood, still listens to the songs of her youth, still picks up men – now, it’s at senior dances, where music of her era is played. She’s pushing 60 and still doing the occasional walk of shame.
She has lost some of her looks, but not her vivaciousness. Sebastian Lelio’s film is about starting over, about how 60 is the new 40 and about how a woman of a certain age keeps her optimism and her sense of self-worth when society (and cinema) has traditionally put such women out to pasture.
“Are you always this happy?” Rodolfo (Sergio Hernandez) wants to know on meeting her. Maybe he has her number. Or maybe that’s just an “alias” she’s been living under.
As Rodolfo, successful, 60-something and plainly smitten, pursues her, and in between the work days and beauty regimen, the wining and dining and youthful paintball battles, we start to understand the weight of sadness behind this sunny exterior.
Some of that you can lay at the feet of Rodolfo. He is an enthusiastic lover, but so guarded about their relationship that Gloria turns suspicious. That gives the film a melodramatic edge.
She has other priorities – a daughter about to move overseas with her Swedish beau, a weepy ex-husband. And Rodolfo is a reminder of everything about her past – drunken bar pickups, the excitement of a new sexual partner, casual pot use, the awkwardness of “relationship” conversations – and the unbridged maturity gap between men and women.
“Gloria” has a palpable loneliness about it, and Garcia makes us feel that and fear the emptiness that is staring Gloria in the face. Not a lot happens in this closely observed character study, but few recent movies have dared to show this stage of life – the creeping solitude that memories of your disco past cannot fend off.