Starring: Paulina García, Sergio Hernández, Diego Fontecilla
Director: Sebastián Lelio
Running Time: 110 mins
Gloria is a Chilean film about a free-spirited older woman who enters into a relationship with a former navy officer, but finds herself in a world of problems as they grow closer.
From Sebastián Lelio, director of the brilliant and passionate drama A Fantastic Woman, comes an earlier drama in the form of Gloria, the tale of love and life at an older age. Representing a demographic and story that really doesn’t get all too much attention on the big screen, Gloria has the ingenuity and intrigue to prove an engaging and often entertaining watch. However, Lelio unfortunately doesn’t go far enough, with the film often coming off as more of an exhausted drag than the strikingly passionate film we know the director can create.
But let’s start on the bright side, with what’s most memorable about the film, and that’s Gloria herself. An enthralling character that sheds off the stereotypes of older people on screen, her free-thinking approach to life combined with the emotional intensity of her struggles in a dysfunctional romantic relationship make for a unique lead presence right the way through.
And on top of that, there’s a really good central performance from Paulina García. While there are parts of this film that are a little underwhelming and exhaustive, García puts in a brilliantly down-to-earth turn as a woman who, despite her continued desire to go out and enjoy life to the full, is just tired with all the struggles she comes up against.
The great thing about the performance is that, rather than a melodramatic turn as an exhausted older woman at her wits’ end, García portrays a genuine sense of conflict between Gloria’s innate enthusiasm and the realities of the world as it is around her, and her growing feelings of frustration and tiredness work brilliantly in tandem with that situation. Her struggles aren’t immensely life-threatening or world-changing, and that’s why over-the-top exhaustion and frustration would have felt out of place, but Paulina García hits the right spot with her performance throughout.
With such a strong central character, Gloria is a film that brilliantly shows another side to the stories of older people on the big screen, and in similar fashion to another very strong drama focusing on a similar demographic, The Heiresses, it’s a unique and welcome addition to the increasing range of stories to be told in cinema.
However, as good as it is to see this sort of story on screen, I wasn’t bowled over by Gloria as the powerful emotional drama it ultimately wants to be. It may feature elements of dark comedy in a similar vein to films like Elle, but the core of the film is a lot more passionate, and I just didn’t feel that passion came across in a particularly striking way.
In comparison to Lelio’s A Fantastic Woman, which uses a powerful portrayal of everyday injustices and prejudice to really get under your skin, Gloria doesn’t have anything that really hits home to the same degree. It’s a fairly engaging watch throughout, but as it attempts to showcase the realities that not all older people live like film stereotypes may have you believe, it forgets to really double down on the narrative specific to this film.
As a result, I found its slow pacing to be a real drag, as the main strength of the film is an overall analysis of the main character, and not the development of events between her and her new partner, or the other people in her life. So, rather than lending a bit more depth to the story on a wider scale – i.e. more focus on secondary characters and Gloria’s local environment – the movie feels a little too one-track, and it just didn’t hold my attention consistently throughout.
Overall, then, I found Gloria to be a bit of a mixed bag. While it’s an engaging and welcome portrayal of a story of an older person that deviates from stereotypes, it doesn’t quite prove as powerful or enthralling from a narrative perspective, with too much focus on its central character, leaving large gaps in the rest of the story that make it a frustrating watch in the end, and that’s why I’m giving it a 6.7.