Berlin Review: Gloria

Joseph Walsh,

Only a heart of stone could not fall in love with Chilean director Sebastián Lelio’s Gloria. An utterly charming heartfelt tale of a 58-year-old divorcee who heads into the singles party world to find love again.

Her children have flown the nest long ago, her daughter is a yoga teacher who has fallen in love with a dashing Swedish mountain climber and her son has just had his first child. Heading into the world of divorcees and middle-aged singles she weekly puts on her glad-rags and hits the dance floor to go get jiggy with more senior hombres, only to head home stumbling on her heels on the way back to her flat, which is constantly invaded by her most regular visitor: a hairless, slightly freaky-looking sphynx cat. Then she meets Rodolfo (Sergio Hernandez), a kindly looking adventure park owner, who looks like he can put that spark of love back into her life.

This is the third feature from Lelio, who creates an instantly likeable tragicomedy, where from the first scene the bespectacled Gloria wins audiences over with her zest for life tinged with a touch of melancholy. Paulina Garcia’s performance sparkles, giving the free-spirited chica, with more than a little flair for comedy, a tragicomic quality.

The comedy switches between peppy and socially awkward, good-natured humour all accompanied by a bopping Latin pop soundtrack. Gloria smokes weed, hangs out with her children and friends, struts her stuff and is generally fun time girl all in the effort to get through what is essentially a mid-life crisis. This whips up the right level of sympathy. Once the relationship with Rodolfo is in full swing this level of compassion only increases as his demanding daughters, who despite being adults depend on him for everything, constantly hound him, ringing his phone every five minutes.

Age is a big concern of this movie; Gloria is often around young people only just starting their adult lives. It constantly reminds her that the clock to find love is ticking. In a less subtle moment of the film, she visits a shopping mall and sees a street entertainer with a skeleton puppet, which screams “FIND LOVE BEFORE YOU DIE!”

This isn’t the only moment where Lelio opts for the overt. He also makes unnecessary references to Chile's past and current student protests, only justified because it’s once again a reference to a youth culture that Gloria can never belong to.

That mild criticism aside, this is a fantastically heart-warming yarn, where Garica comes across as Chile’s answer to an Ozon-esque Catherine Deneuve creating a character that even after the credits roll you are still a little bit in love with.

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