"Gloria" is one more cinematic gem crafted in Chile this year that was written, directed, and co-produced by talented young film-maker Sebastián Lelio (also co-produced by Pablo Larrain).
The film is about its titular heroine Gloria (Paulina García), an independent woman in her late fifties who'd been divorced for a while and has two grown-up children living on their own. Lonely at times, more so because the children are also fiercely independent and do not want her involved in their personal lives, Gloria has to leave messages on their phone reminding them to call her. But rather than brood and complain, Gloria's approach to life is altogether upbeat - she goes out in the evenings, even if by herself, to dance and socialise with people, and seek companionship with men of her age. She may be past her youth and best looks, but she's a woman determinedly lapping up life to the best of her abilities, and enjoying every moment of it as they happen.
But Gloria is also not someone trying to rebel against old age, nor is she seeking anything other than conventional love - her musical tastes, mostly pop songs from yesteryears, vividly convey her aspirations. She'll find a man of her liking in Rodolfo (Sergio Hernández) - slightly older but divorced for just a year, with a still dependent ex wife and needy grown up daughters. The two embark on a passionate love affair, but it will become clearer by the day that whilst passion can kick-start a relationship, maintaining and building upon it by making compromises here and there is an altogether different matter...
The film's message is social rather than political. It is about a generation that doesn't believe that sex and passion should end at a certain age, wrinkles notwithstanding, and that it is perfectly acceptable to express one's sensuality and seek sexual intimacy during any stage of their lives. It is aptly conveyed through piercing visual commentary and a surprisingly mature characterisation that belies the director's young age. The middle-aged couple portrayed could be the viewer's father or mother, or themselves even - the dilemmas and issues that the characters go through would relate universally.
The film is made all the more remarkable thanks to extraordinary performances, particularly by Paulina García who even won a Silver Bear at this year's Berlinale, and her totally frank and brave sex scenes with Sergio Hernández - they're as honest and real as they could get - full of sensuality and immediacy. García, appearing in almost every frame, is the heart and soul of the film, and she carries her character so naturally that you don't see an actress but a very real woman. Her interpretation of Gloria, in nuance and style, is the female equivalent to Toni Servillo's Jep Gambardella in their quest for la dolce vita - together they should also share the honours for this year's finest performances in film. Highly Recommended Viewing..!
Amazon DVD Link [PAL]
The Nudity: Paulina García and Sergio Hernández
There are four scenes in the film that feature nudity from Paulina García - three of which are also highly sensual sex scenes that break new ground in the way mature sexuality is depicted in mainstream cinema without compromising its integrity.