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Paulina García in the new Chilean-Spanish drama Gloria.

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★★★★★

Gloria

Directed by Sebastián Lelio

Starring Paulina García, Sergio Hernández, Diego Fontecilla

Rated R

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Enter Gloria, brilliantly performed by Paulina García, a joyful charmer who sings along to sappy tunes while driving, a divorced woman on her second wind, adapting to the awkward stage in life when her children start having children of their own and at an age when couples seldom remain married.

Attractive and independent, the flirtatious Gloria is a regular at the dancing club that she visits by herself, until one night Gloria’s eyes lock with Rodolfo’s. Recently divorced, he is also doing his best to adapt to his new reality. A few dances later and he is in her apartment.

Rodolfo and Gloria engage in an endearing relationship. An old romantic, he wines and dines, writes poems and adores her fiery tenderness, wishfully thinking that through her, he will be able to escape the manipulation he endures from his two daughters.

But after an awkward family reunion, complete with wives and ex-wives, an estranged father, and a session viewing photo albums, Rodolfo feels left out of the picture. He immaturely leaves the scene, leaving Gloria in a shameful situation.

After one too many calls, Gloria gives him a second chance staged by a romantic escape to a beach town. But it happens again. A call from his daughters, drama at home, his promise to her to be there, and history is repeated: he runs to the bathroom never to emerge. Abandoned and saddened, Gloria takes her own course of action. A few drinks later and she is in a cab with a stranger, only to wake up at the beach, barefoot and purse-less. Rescued by her household helper, Gloria comes home exhausted. But to be clear, this is by no means a sad movie about a lonely woman. Gloria’s subtle strength and resilience, her ability to take things as they come and relentless pursuit of joy, have her dressing up and avenging herself in an exposing and delightful way that I won’t give away.

The movie uncovers how the current times in Chile and the rifts and commonalities between generations of its people shape Gloria. In her own words, she is unable to identify the moment when she stopped being the person she used to be and became the person she is now. Gloria’s life is a mix of past and modern times. It is not strange for one’s daughter love a man on the other side of the world. Friendships begin while reminiscing about old times with her bohemian contemporaries who grew up in a Chile under Pinochet and playing bossa-nova. Technology has converged such that cellphones and email are available, but not Twitter or Facebook, and banging pots and pans out the window in support of protesters is still a practice.

Gloria is a breath of fresh air in all her adult glory, making us wish we had a bit of her joyful persona in our adulthood regardless of circumstance.