Rightly tapping into the cliché of middle-age solitude, GLORIA, the up-and-coming Chilean filmmaker Sebastián Lelio’s Golden Bear contender (rightfully won its leading actress Paulina García a coveted BEST ACTRSS gong), is a brutally honest take on our titular heroine’s stagnated status quo and her inexorable endeavor to break it.
A petit bourgeois divorcée, Gloria (García) is in her 50s and has stayed single over a decade, she has a stable office job, the relations with her grown-up children have become distant inevitably through time and she frequents a club tailoring maturer clientele to seek some new spark in her inert life, that’s where she meets Rodolfo (Hernández), a retired navy officer and a blow-in of the divorcé club. Physically, their sparkle is incandescent, by way of a daringly hardcore directness in their one-night-stand (and many intimate occasions would follow), Lelio brings home to audience that as unprepossessing as their act seems by the standard of common aesthetics, that is what sex looks like at that age: flabby flesh, furrowed face, unwieldy posture, yet, nothing can possibly take away the carnal sensation the process engenders, and granted not everyone is bestowed with that privilege in their autumn years.
That said, there is always a catch in the passion-kindled romance when it passes the initial stage of purely physical attraction towards something more personal and complicated, something is detrimental to the budding relationship. In this case and according to Rodolfo, it is his over-dependent adult daughters, but in the event, after being wantonly stiffed by him not once but twice (the first is a misstep to bring him to her son’s birthday party where her ex-husband is also present, and the second is a much more invidious hammer blow), Gloria realizes that this umbilical cord is bilateral, or even worse, insinuated by the last appearance of Rodolfo, decked and peppered by Gloria’s vengeful paintball pellets, maybe his side of the story is a total whopper, that is what one calls a superbly orchestrated open-ending eliciting a viewer's afterthought.
Through and through, Lelio levels his camera to the indefatigable Gloria, accentuates the emotional spectrum through a much trodden path, and crystallizes the cathartic moments with sublimely figurative strokes (let it be the dancing skeleton metaphor, a thinly-veiled political snapshot in the background or that precious white peacock knockout), often with optimal diegetic music choices (sometimes played lyrically through real-life musician Hugo Moraga),culminated by Umberto Tozzi’s erstwhile hit GLORIA, trenchantly hits the bull’s eye with its rousing tempo and significative pertinence, that is the damn theme song and a tribute to our heroine and gazillions of women like her in the real world, sidelined and often slighted by this ageist and sexist society, but never subjugates themselves to victimology, instead, they are absolutely faithful to what their hearts desire and never flinch back by the sporadic impediments.
Meanwhile, it is also a hard-won victory for the central players, Paulina García deserves all the acclaim she garners for a bold but minutely precise, unmannered yet immensely visceral tour-de-force, which sets a high bar for its slated USA rehash, directed by Lelio himself and starring Julianne Moore. And last but not the least, Sergio Hernández, impresses viewers with equal dedication and beguiles us with his seemingly benevolent and passionate efforts, which speaks volumes about a callous male ego, there is an abuser underneath a commoner’s camouflage, soundly punches above its weight in this emphatic feminist chord-striker.
referential point: Kleber Mendonça Filho’s AQUARIUS (2016, 8.3/10)