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Chile 2013
Directed by
Sebastian Lelio
110 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Sharon Hurst
3.5 stars


Synopsis: Gloria (Paulina Garcia) is 58 year old divorcee who loves to go dancing at adult singles clubs. When she meets recently divorced Rodolfo (Sergio Hernandez) she embarks upon a passionate and physically fulfilling affair but the baggage Rodolfo brings to the relationship means all is not smooth sailing.

Gloria, both the film and the character, will really strike a chord with women of a certain age. Although the setting is Chile, the underlying mood and themes are universal. Women considered “past their prime” seem to be always ignored, almost invisible, and yet inside, so many feel alive, vibrant, younger than their years. Thus it is with Gloria, a resilient woman who loves to sing, dance and romance and who keeps up the loving contact with her kids, despite their neglect of her. Underneath it all we keenly feel her loneliness, so meeting Rodolfo seems like a dream come true.

But it is a dream too good to be true. This unassertive man has adult kids who are overly dependent upon him and he is reluctant to expose them to his new relationship, which only furthers Gloria’s chronic uncertainty. How she deals with all this makes for a fascinating filmic journey, even though nothing dramatically momentous ever happens. We simply accompany this highly engaging woman as she goes into what could be her last romance and opportunity to rediscover herself.

Music is critical to the story. The film opens with the older crowd dancing almost frenetically to the remembered soundtrack of their youthful years. There is also vibrant, sexy Latin American music, and when Gloria sings along as she drives, we fortunately get translations of the songs’ words, as these are important in underscoring her emotions. Gloria’s emotions are constantly in the viewer’s face as there is hardly a moment Garcia is not on the screen. Intuitive viewers who relate to the experience of the main character can almost read the thoughts going through the woman’s head, so effective is Garcia who won the Silver Bear at last year’s Berlin Film Festival.

The film also won the Ecumenical Award at the Berlin festival where it was was rightly commended “for its refreshing and contagious plea that life is a celebration to which we are all invited, regardless of age or condition”. This is exuberantly portrayed in scenes in which Gloria indulges in extreme sports like riding on a flying fox or paintball although her increased risk-taking (such as flirting with light drugs) also threatens to damage her positive attitude to life. The joy of life is also celebrated in scenes of the couple’s lovemaking, an activity open to all age-groups a fact often ignored in film (and something that will no doubt turn off a younger audience). The gentle passion between the two leads is well handled, and Garcia and Hernandez play off each other in a truthful and empathetic way.

In typical Euro-style, extended and estranged families manage to somehow get along when required. A birthday party scene with Gloria’s kids and her ex-husband, Gabriel (Alejandro Goic), reminds us that all divorced couples were once in love, whilst Rodolfo’s clinging family remind us of the ties that bind.

Among the many bitter-sweet elements, there are also moments to amuse and the film reminds us that at any age we still have some growing up to do and as much living as we can pack in.




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