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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, February 7 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 06
Life-affirming Gloria a universal love story
Arts & Entertainment
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Life-affirming Gloria a universal love story

by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN A&E Writer

The best thing about writer/director Sebastián Lelio's Chilean import Gloria is its strong-willed, almost fearless simplicity. Co-written with Gonzalo Maza, the movie is as honest a depiction of middle-aged life, romance, family and love as anything to be released in quite some time, everything happening with a dynamic, straightforward exactitude allowing the inherent humor and emotion to bubble forth with an honestly ebullient ease.

Santiago single Gloria (Paulina García) has been divorced for some time now. She's the one chasing down her children, eldest, a single father of one, Pedro (Diego Fontecilla), and flighty, yoga instructor daughter, Ana (Fabiola Zamora), in order to spend even a single moment with them. Intelligent and intuitive, confident and self-reliant, while Gloria doesn't mope around pitying her lot in life, at the same time she does realize something is missing, and while romance isn't a priority, finding someone to share the remainder of her life with would be admittedly nice.

Told entirely from her singular point of view, Gloria never breaks, never bends, allowing its titular character to blossom and evolve slowly and assuredly throughout its entire 110-minute narrative. The relationship that ends up developing between the heroine and recent divorcé Rodolfo (Sergio Hernandez) is refreshing in its brevity, things happening between the two of them with a naturalistic grace that's pleasingly intoxicating. Lelio doesn't stoop to using mawkish melodramatics or cliché emotive theatrics to pull emotional responses out of the viewer, thus the tears that ultimately flowed from the corners of my eyes felt all the more potent as they were honestly realized.

García is superb. In virtually every scene of the movie, the actress is sensational, never over doing it or pushing things to an extreme in order to find the truth in each and every moment of the film. Her interactions with Hernandez are so strong, so beautifully minimalistic, their romance almost can't help but have the air of something new and fresh, even if the mechanics fueling each and every moment are hardly original. García brings these, and every other moment of the film, to life with a startlingly, nakedly raw simplicity that's awe-inspiring, delivering the type of breathtaking performance that will stand the test of time and then some.

Lelio and Maza don't exactly offer up anything new, and I can't say I was shocked or surprised by any place the pair deigned to take me. Additionally, while Pedro's subplot, told in sparse, understated brushstrokes, felt entirely genuine, I can't say the same about events afflicting Ana, her dalliances the only part of the film that carry an air of glossy cinematic absurdity to them I had trouble relating to.

Overall, however, Gloria is a stunning masterwork told with confidence and passion, anchored by a performance from García that's close to titanic in its self-contained luminosity. The actress is genius, as is Lelio's staging of the dramatics at the heart of his tale, this marvelous glimpse into a woman's late-in-life romantic longings a stunning achievement of humor, heart and heroics viewers the world over should be able to relate to and happily embrace.

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