Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Gloria [2013]

MPAA (R)  ChicagoTribune (3 1/2 Stars)  RE.com (4 Stars)  AVClub (B+)  Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing
CineChile.cl listing*

ChicagoTribune (B. Sharkey) review
RE.com (S. Wloszczyna) review
AVClub (M. D'Angelo) review

Gloria [2013] [IMDb] [CCh.cl]* (directed and screenplay cowritten by Sebastián Lelio [Wkp-EN] [Wkp-ES]* [IMDb] [CCh.cl]* along with Gonzalo Maza [IMDb] [CCh.cl]*) is a remarkable film that I would recommend TO ADULTS (the R rating for theme and occasional very honestly portrayed middle-aged to beyond middle-aged sexuality is definitely appropriate) belonging to various groups and for various reasons.

FIRST AND FOREMOST, I would recommend the film to MIDDLE-AGED HISPANICS.  Many, many of you will see yourselves and/or your friends in this film.

NEXT, I would recommend this film to all ADULTS "of a certain age" everywhere and perhaps especially from the United States or and perhaps parts of Western Europe.   This is because the film comes from Santiago, Chile (South America) and yet many American and even Western European viewers will probably find 50 something year old Gloria (played magnificently by Paulina Garcia [IMDb] [CCh.cl]*) both IMMEDIATELY RELATABLE  and (PERHAPS) UTTERLY SURPRISING:

She and all her family and friends are (obviously...) CHILEAN, living educated middle-to-professional class existences in Chile, generally "happy as pie" though at least one or two of Gloria's friends makes passing reference to the dark days of dictatorship in Chile's case the Pinochet years.  In Spain where a cousin of mine married a Spaniard and has lived there happily ever since, the reference would have been to Franco.  In the Czech Republic where my family is originally from the references would have been to the Communist Era.  In Belfast, Ireland where I've met people again basically "just like Gloria" back in the 1990s (and hence their 'dark days' were not yet over) the reference would have been to 'the Troubles.'  Thanks to the Servites, I've also gotten a chance to meet a fair number of young people attending our parishes in Sao Paulo, Brazil and Mexico City, Mexico who come from families and and living lives very much similar to those portrayed in this film.   Finally, having seen (and reviewed here) over the past years, some excellent recent films coming from Russia, Egypt and Iran (Elena (orig. Елена) [2011], Scheherazade Tell Me a Story (aka Women of Cairo) [2009] and A Separation [2011] / Meeting Leila (orig. Ashnaee ba Leila) [2011], I have no doubt that similar circles of "Gloria and her friends/relatives" live there and lament these days of Putin, the apparent slide back to military dictatorship in Egypt, and the excessive indeed pervasive "paternalism" of the Islamic regime in Iran.  I would add this film to the others and remind readers here that one of the great joys of "going to the movies" (and especially to periodic film festivals or to see foreign films) is that for the price of admission (and a few hours of time spent) one CAN TRAVEL ALL OVER THE WORLD and find that there are a lot people AGAIN FROM ALL OVER THE WORLD who are actually "just like us" (or close enough so that it doesn't make all that much difference anymore ;-).

FINALLY, I would recommend the film to the introspective, metaphysical lot because how the world relates to Gloria in good part is how WE often relate to others and even to God.

To the film then ... We meet Gloria (played by Paulina Garcia [IMDb] [CCh.cl]*), early 50 something, divorced now for some 12-13 years, at a Santiago "singles gathering."  She's "spruced up" on the off-chance that she may actually meet somebody.  But she's been there before, knows already that she's probably _not_ going to meet anyone who catches her eye.  "So why do you go?" asks one of the men, her age, again someone who's both been 'around the block a few times,' and, as a result, like Gloria, already a 'bit worn by the years.'   "To dance." she replies.  "Alone?" "Yes, at times."  He asks her to dance.  She accepts.  To neither one's surprise, no real sparks are ignited between them.

BUT ... Out there on the dance floor, THIS TIME, she does catch the eye of ANOTHER SOMEWHAT OLDER (so that would make him in his early 60s) and somewhat distinguished gentleman who Gloria/we come to know is named Rodolfo (played by Sergio Hernández [IMDb] [CCh.cl]*) and even if in a regular sports coat and tie (like the other men at the soiree) still looks somewhat more "distinguished" than the rest because he was a former naval officer (That he was in the Chilean Navy rather than Army proves rather important in a later scene when questioned lightly but pointedly by one of Gloria's friends at a different soiree because of the politics/history of the Pinochet years.  MY GUESS is that the Navy wasn't as directly involved in the repression during those years as the Army ...).  Anyway, both come to strike each other as interesting and thus after some flirtation, and some dancing ... they end up (PARENTS TAKE NOTE ... this is an R rated movie) spending the night together.

Now much could be said at this point about that.  The first thing that one could say about the love-making scene and others that do follow is that these scenes feel ABSOLUTELY "REAL."  This is a 50+ year old woman and a 60+ year old man, who we learn sometime later had "lost a lot of weight" in the last year-and-a-half after having undertaken gastrointestinal surgery.  So their love-making is not exactly of the "stud athlete" / "supermodel" quality.  It's very, very honest, with all kinds of lumps where there wouldn't have been lumps when they were younger.

The next question that one could ask: Well, regardless of them being 50 or 60 years old, what are they having sex for outside of marriage?  Well probably _in some part_ "for pleasure," but my guess is that it would be for more than just that.  My guess is that it'd be primarily for the same reason that MOST PEOPLE would enter into a sexual relationship before marriage (or in the aftermath of a failed marriage before getting married again) that is, for validation (that there is someone or more problematically that there are _someones_ who find them exciting/attractive enough to go to bed with).

Now is that what the Church teaches that sex ought to be about?  Of course not.  Especially when one starts to talk of multiple partners, one does ever increase the chance that _normally_ children would be created (and be largely unwanted) by such sexual activity.  So yes, sleeping with someone outside of marriage (EVEN AMONG "old/middle aged people") is a SIN.  That said, it's also _generally_ about _more_ than just "getting high."  That doesn't "not make it a sin."  But it should make it more understandable than dismissing such behavior as being simply "hedonistic" or even outright evil. 

And it's absolutely clear that Gloria _is searching_.  Beyond entering into this complicated on again, off again relationship with Rodolfo (who we find has some issues in his former family), she tries bungi-jumping, yoga (her 20-something daughter is a yoga instructor), "laugh therapy" and even truly "getting high" (when some marijuana actually ends up (mistakenly) on her doorstep.

Now I would suspect that a fair number of the readers of my blog would find much of her behavior described above problematic to sinful/offensive.  But what's fascinating is that we're really given a "God's Eye" view of her life.  THE PEOPLE IN HER LIFE (or who should be in her life) GENERALLY DON'T SEE HER DOING ANY OF THIS because THEY GENERALLY DON'T SEE HER AT ALL.  She lives alone.  The drugs that show up on her doorstep belong actually to the guy who lives the floor above her, who she _never sees_ (but hears a lot, because he does a lot of screaming).  Gloria's kids including her yoga instructor daughter and (some kind of) engineer son, are "nice enough people" but THEY JUST SEE HER AS _OLD_ (as one WITHOUT a LIFE OF CONSEQUENCE).

So HONESTLY, the ONLY LIFE OF MEANING that Gloria has ... is with this on-again, off-again Rodolfo, the circle of friends that she occasionally meets with AND _POSSIBLY_ WITH GOD, who LIKE US VIEWERS, would/could be watching her life and PERHAPS be INTERESTED in her BUT ALSO LIKE US _unable_ to do more (give her encouragement, give her a hug, etc).  

Now we can't do more because we're watching her very human, very sympathetic life played out on a screen.  But God wouldn't be able to enter into her life for a different reason ... she doesn't seem to talk to God.  She lives her life perhaps sympathetically but ... as if God does not exist.

Interestingly enough, Gloria's children live very much the same way in relationship to her ... as if she doesn't really exist either.  And yet she does ...

Interesting huh? ;-)

In any case, this is a quite lovely and interesting movie about a 50+ year old woman who most people would probably not even notice if we met her on the street one day.

* Foreign language webpages are most easily translated using Google's Chrome Browser. 

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