So rarely are middle-aged women the subjects of movies that it seems ungrateful not to genuflect when one of these exceptions comes along. Although this Chilean film’s narrative ambitions are modest, Gloria is a likable movie that’s anchored by an outstanding performance by Paulina García – whose work here was recognized with the Best Actress award at last year’s Berlin Film Festival. Appearing in nearly every frame of the film, García imbues the eponymous character with an unquenchable thirst for life – which seems alternately audacious and foolhardy.
Divorced for more than a decade, Gloria is a woman in her 50s who’s on good terms with her two grown children and their families. She works, goes to yoga class, and sings along with the tunes pumping out of her car radio. She lives alone, and at home she’s pestered by a neighbor’s wild rantings that penetrate her apartment walls and a hairless cat that continually invades her space despite being regularly tossed out. She also goes by herself to dance in clubs, and maybe find a partner, if only for a moment. Gloria’s life seems open and full, yet unexceptional. When she meets Rodolfo (Hernández) – a recently divorced, middle-aged man – she at first seems wary but then opens up her life to him. After he disappoints her not once, but twice, Gloria appears to take it in stride. No histrionics about the one who got away, just a simple return to the dance of life – literalized by the character stepping out on the disco floor to shake her leg to a foreign-language version of Laura Branigan’s hit song “Gloria.”
We are never privy to Gloria’s deepest inner thoughts, so she remains something of mystery. We can admire her resilience and unwillingness to get bent out of shape over a romantic affair gone bad. It’s also refreshing to see two middle-aged bodies engage in sex. But like the disco sounds that accompany the end of Gloria, this film seems a bit superficial.