There are few films that pass the time as breezily as Sebastián Lelio‘s film Gloria. Discussed heavily amongst the awards watchers, the film certainly finds itself in contention and at AFI Fest due to its quiet efficiency and a sure camera that lets us in just enough to feel for the characters but not overwhelm them.
We first meet Gloria (Paulina Garcia) at a nightclub that seems to cater to an older clientele. She’s confident, flirting with a few men and genuinely has a good time. This belies her real life which is much more plain: she lives alone in an apartment below a noisy neighbor whose cat keeps getting into her apartment and deals with her two grown up children. One night she meets Rodolfo, a fellow divorcee, and the two hit it off right away, forming a relationship that goes well at the beginning. But like most couples, emotional baggage and familial obligations begin to encroach on them and the two have to decide whether it’s worth continuing on.
Solid is perhaps the best way to describe this movie. There’s nothing out-of-place or too much, a praise that can be placed firmly on Lelio’s shoulders. He is so sure of every element of this film that he lets the film play out without neededing to interject himself too much. It’s always great when directors don’t overexert the camera into the narrative and Lelio does just that. However, in presenting this portrait of a woman, the film doesn’t manage to elevate itself. Gloria is certainly a good film and an interesting character, but the film just felt so breezy and light. Try though I did, something just kept me from being entirely invested in the film. The movie just doesn’t jump off the screen like it should.
But it’s not hard to like a film like this when you have actors like Paulina Garcia giving you the type of performance she delivers. Gloria is a character that grows over time, but in small increments. That’s a tough tightrope for an actor to walk, but Garcia does it with ease. She bares herself, both figuratively and literally, to get the character’s shifting moods, quiet desperation, and verve for life. She’s matched by Sergio Hernandez as Rodolfo, a quiet man who comes to life with Gloria only to be weighed down by his past. The time since the screening I’ve marveled at just how sensitive this performance was and Hernandez definitely deserves some praise alongside his costar. Providing some great supporting work in the film is Diego Fontecilla as Gloria’s son and Fabiola Zamora.
All in all, there’s certainly a lot to like about this film, even if it doesn’t wow the viewer at all times. If you’re looking for a nice character study about a complex woman, you should probably look no further than Gloria.