Chilean director Sebastián Lelio’s Gloria (2013) is a lighthearted examination of a country in a state of flux, told beautifully through the tragic endeavours of its hopelessly romantic protagonist, that’s both charming and culturally enlightening. Gloria (Paulina Garcia) is an ageing divorcee living alone in her one bedroom apartment, who’s determined not to spend the rest of her days alone. She spends her evenings at a local singles club where she drinks cocktails and dances to disco music amongst a rabble of similarly lonely souls, each desperately attempting to rebel against their solitude and fight off the advance of old age.
It’s here that Gloria meets Rudolfo (Sergio Hernandez), an ex-naval officer, seven years her senior, who whisks her of her feet. That evening, a night of awkward, fumbling lovemaking becomes the catalyst for a steady relationship. However, despite an encouraging start, it quickly becomes apparent that Rudolfo’s divorce is far more recent than Gloria’s, and the scars of his troubled marriage are still clear for all to see. Gloria sees potential for a lifelong relationship, yet Rudolfo’s inability to completely separate himself from his past slowly begins to raise question over his commitment to her and his capacity to adapt to a new life. The camera’s gaze never leaves our heroine’s presence, and the film is all the more enjoyable for it.
With Gloria, Garcia has created a complex and incredibly affable character that oozes heartfelt emotion, be it her charming romantic optimism or how she copes with the stifling isolation of singledom. A refreshingly empowered woman of advancing years, this fragile yet confident woman seizes control of her life and embraces the liberation she’s presently enjoying, culminating in a film full of vivacity, warmth and charisma. Not dissimilar to the majority of Chilean film’s that have found themselves an appreciative audience overseas, Lelio’s offering does provide a non-to-subtle allegory for a country in transition, learning to except its freedom from dictatorship whilst constantly undergoing a political metamorphoses.
Whilst nowhere near as powerful or alarming as Pablo Larraín’s Post Mortem (2010) or as pensive and contemplative as Nostalgia For The Light (2012), Lelio’s lighthearted approach is no less effective at illuminating Chile’s bleak and troubled history. A s smart, sensitive and bitterly funny romantic comedy, elegantly played out against the backdrop of a county whose political scars are still very much evident, Lelio’s endlessly impressive Gloria is on of the most enjoyable and heartwarming films of the year.
This review was originally published as part of our Berlin Film Festival coverage.