Gloria: Chile’s Oscar Card, Starring Paulina Garcia in Astonishing Performance

As the titular character of Gloria, the Chilean entry for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, Paulina Garcia gives an astonishing performance that deserves a serious Oscar consideration. Appearing in each and every scene, Garcia elevates considerably director Sebastian Lelio’s mordant tale of the romantic life of a middle-age.

It may come as no surprise that there are not many good or meaty roles for women of a certain age, and so Gloria gets extra credit for putting center stage a middle-aged woman, and then strips her, both literally and figuratively.

Divorced, at 58, Gloria is determined to change her life before it is really too late.  To that extent, she frequents the dance floor of a Santiago night club.  Soon, she becomes desirable for older men, such as Rodolfo (Sergio Hernandez), a family man who’s not particularly attractive man. They start to date, but Rodolfo spends too much time talking to his ex-wife and daughters, who prove to be ungrateful; they neglected him during a recent operation.

Lelio balances well the shifting emotional tone of his story, which vacillates between hope and heartbreak, humor and pathos.  It’s only a matter of time before Gloria regains self-consciousness and self-worth.  During Gloria’s journey of self-discovery, Lelio observes her drinking, gambling, slobbered on in a resort casino, and so on. Alongside the humiliating scenes in public, there are also acts that show her growing inner strength, her capacity for action and even vengeance.