How did writer-director Sebastian Lelio, 39, come to tell the story of this older woman?
“I’ve seen this in many women of that age,” he said during a recent phone conversation. “Despite what anyone says, they are not at home. They are willing to fight to be alive. I think that’s very moving.”
The heroine of Chilean director Sebastián Lelio’s exuberant semi-comedy Gloria is right in the middle of the fiftysomething version of that in-between. We join her story already in progress but get the idea pretty quickly: Gloria (Paulina García) has been divorced for 13 years and would, quite simply, like to meet a guy. The movie opens at a dance club filled with people around her age. The women are decked out in spindly high heels and sparkly dresses that stop just short of trying too hard. The men are neatly dressed in jackets, though somehow they all look a little more shopworn, maybe a little less moisturized, than the women do. And still, the women want them.
García, who’s in every scene of the film, wonderfully conveys (even from behind her enormous “Tootsie” glasses) a woman who hasn’t yet lost her optimism, despite many setbacks. When she doesn’t know what to say, she laughs; when she tries something new (in this case, bungee jumping) she beams, opening her arms to the sky. We travel her life with her, and start carrying what she carries: a bad marriage, an emptiness where her children used to be, a neighbor who frighteningly shouts at night, a man who’ll give himself to her in bed, but not in life. And by the end, we dance with her, living in the moment as she does, not looking ahead to life’s next turn.