Gloria (2013)

Story of a woman in her fifties who embraces life with a youthful spirit at the same time dealing with complexities of middle aged love and the pursuit of happiness in life

11/7/20235 min read

Paulina Garcia as 'Gloria'
Paulina Garcia as 'Gloria'

Spanish, 113 mins, 2013

Director: Sebastian Lelio

Cast: Paulina Garcia, Sergio Hernandez, Diego Fontecilla, Fabiola Zamora, Liliana Garcia, Alejandro Goic, Eyal Meyer

Awards: Won Prize of the Ecumenical Jury, Best Actress (Silver Bear) and Nominee Golden Bear, Berlin International Film Festival, 2013; Won Best Foreign Film (Silver Condor), Argentinian Film Critics Awards, 2016; Winner Grand Coral (Third Prize), Best Film, Havana Film Festival, 2013; Winner, National Board of Review, USA Award, 2013

“Are you always this happy” Rodolfo (Sergio Hernandez), an aged man asks, almost disbelievingly, to Gloria (Played wonderfully by Paulina Garcia) at a club while watching her, dancing for quite some time. Bear in mind, Gloria is in her late fifties. This, actually, is the essence of the entire film.

Gloria is single woman in her late fifties, divorced ten years back who works in an office. She has a son and daughter who live separately but in the same city, Santiago, Chile. Gloria likes to dance and often goes to disco where people of her age come. On one such occasion, she meets Rodolfo Fernandez, divorced recently a year ago and much older than her with a strange query (written at the start of this article) after watching her for few minutes. She bursts out laughing and says no and adds that she too has her sad moments. But it seems Rodolfo is smitten by her. They talk and then end up sleeping together. He is a businessman who owns a small amusement park, called Vertigo Park, and had worked in Navy during his younger days. They both go to the amusement park and play paintball. While returning, Rodolfo gives her paintball guns to keep.

After few meetings, Gloria takes Rodolfo to her son, Pedro’s (Diego Fontecilla) birthday party where all her family members are gathering. The architect of the get-together is Flavia (Liliana Garcia), her earlier husband, Gabriel’s (Alejandro Goic) wife. They talk freely and come across a close-knit family prompting Rodolfo to remark that he too would like to have a family like this. Gloria’s family members ask Rodolfo about his work his business and his family which makes him a bit uncomfortable. Rodolfo has two daughters aged 27 and 31 who live with their mother and depend on him financially. It transpires that even though he is divorced he still has to take care of his daughters and wife and is not really completely free. As Gloria and her earlier husband talk about their marriage and discuss old photographs, Rodolfo disappears without telling anybody. Gloria along with her daughter Ana (Fabiola Zamora) and son Sebastian search for him but he isn’t found. His phone too goes to voicemail. Embarrassed, Gloria returns home alone.

Next day, Rodolfo calls her incessantly while Gloria is in her office. She shuts him out by saying she is busy. At office parking, Rodolfo confronts her and explains why it was not easy for him to be there. He wants their relationship to continue but Gloria thinks otherwise and leaves. She is again alone but enjoys her free time. She goes to airport to drop her daughter off who is going to Sweden since her boyfriend Theo (Eyal Meyer) is from Sweden and watches her go away with moist eyes.

Rodolfo is not the one to give up. He calls her repeatedly and convinces her eventually to take her to beach city of Vina del Mar and both check into a luxury hotel. Both are very happy. Soon after they enter their room Rodolfo receives call from one of his daughters that their mom banged into a glass door and cut herself. As he explains the situation, Gloria decides to leave and Rodolfo tries to stop her. She strips down and both have sex. At dinner, Rodolfo tries to explain her how difficult it is for him to abandon his daughters and Gloria counters him saying how it is making his life miserable and how bad it is for the daughters to depend on him all the time. As they are discussing their plans for a long travel, Rodolfo’s phone rings again. Gloria takes the phone and puts it into his soup laughing continuously. Rodolfo cleans his phone and asks Gloria to excuse him. Assuming, that he has gone to washroom, she waits but he is gone. Rodolfo doesn’t return. Gloria is disturbed, so she heads to bar and gets drunk, roams city, visits a casino and dances with strangers.

Next morning, she wakes up on a beach with a heavy hangover. She returns to hotel to discover that Rodolfo hasn’t checked out yet but has not returned. She calls Victoria, her maid, from Santiago and both return back home by bus. At home, she spends time alone while her phone rings continuously. She takes paintball guns given to her by Rodolfo and visits his house. She shoots green paintballs on his house’s front wall and hits Rodolfo who is returning from store with groceries. She then rushes away in her car. She goes to attend a wedding where she dances to legendary Italian song ‘Gloria’ by Umberto Tozzi.

The film basically celebrates middle age. The Gloria’s character is determined to enjoy life despite tough and adverse situations. The screenplay by Gonzalo Maza and Sebastian Lelio is easy-going but tight and centers around the character of Gloria. So Paulina Garcia got an author backed role who plays Gloria with grace and aplomb earning her numerous awards for ‘Best Actress’ at many festivals and by various Film critics’ bodies. Sergio Hernandez, despite age, convincingly plays the character of hopelessly romantic Rodolfo. Overall the film impresses us with its theme of ‘joy of life’ with a fresh perspective.

About the director, Sebastian Lelio

Born in the month of March, 1974 in the city of Mendoza, Argentina, Sebastian shifted to Vina Del Mar, a beach city in Chile at the age of two years. For next few years he kept on travelling within Chile with his mother who was Chilean.

He studied journalism for one year and then got admitted in Chilean Film School. He graduated in 1995 and since then has directed many short films, documentaries and feature films. His first short film, made in 1995 was titled ‘4’. Next one, ‘Cuatro’ came in 1996. He kept on making short films till 2005 when got break to make his first full length feature. His debut feature film, ‘The Sacred Family’ premiered in San Sebastian International Film Festival. The film talks about repressed desires of an aged man and others that surface when his son’s young girlfriend joins the vacation. The film received many awards at various film festivals across the world. His next film ‘Navidad’ (Christmas), made in 2009, got premiered in Cannes Film Festival that year.

‘Gloria’ is Sebastian’s fourth feature which got premiered at Berlin International Film festival, 2013 and earned Best Actress award for Paulina Garcia. In 2018 he made ‘A fantastic woman’, a film about a young transgender woman who is in a relationship with an older man. The film was adjudged ‘Best Foreign Language Film’ at Oscars following year. Sebastian continues to make short films and features and his latest feature was ‘Wonder’, a psychological drama made in 2022.