“Gloria, directed by Sebastián Lelio, is Chile’s offering at the altar of the best foreign-language film Oscar,” notes A.O. Scott in the New York Times. “It is a breathtakingly honest—sometimes painful, often funny—examination of the life of its title character, a divorced woman in her 50s played with abundant dignity and minimal vanity by Paulina García.” Who, we should add, won a Silver Bear for Best Actress at the Berlinale in February. “She and Mr. Lelio understand the power of an individual story. There is nothing special about Gloria, and her middle-aged, middle-class ordinariness at first makes her name seem cruelly ironic. But as she deals with ungrateful children, a dubious romance and a terrible neighbor, an unsentimental picture of everyday heroism emerges, and the audience is graced with intimate knowledge of a person we might not otherwise have noticed.”
Mike D’Angelo caught Gloria in Toronto, where it was a Special Presentation, and sent this into the Dissolve: “First seen downing drinks and making moves at a local disco, Gloria eventually embarks on a relationship with a fellow divorcé, Rodolfo (Sergio Hernández), doing her best to ignore the fact that he spends most of his time with her dealing with his ex-wife and their two adult daughters. García initially plays Gloria as a generic sad sack, underlining her melancholy by making her overly chipper in other people’s company, but the character deepens enormously as the film goes along, and what had looked like miserabilism resolves into a paean to resilience.”
David Fear in Time Out New York: “For a while, director Sebastián Lelio refuses to give in to either Haneke-ish ugliness or Miramax-style sentimentality—until the late-act appearance of a paintball gun and a dance-floor victory lap regrettably nudge things toward option two. But after seeing García’s award-winning performance, you won’t really care about the AARP-pandering aspects. Funny, sexy, sad, vulnerable and ultimately tenacious, her Gloria is one of the most complex, fully fleshed-out over-60 females to ever hit screens.”
For Ben Kenigsberg at the AV Club, though, “the movie becomes disappointingly pat the more García is pressed to make a decision on her lover.” Back on the other hand, Howard Feinstein for Filmmaker: “Lelio (The Sacred Family, The Year of the Tiger) has an ear for just the right music to suit action and mood throughout. I won’t give away the ending, but it is subtly and brilliantly executed by him and a phenomenal García.”
Gloria screens this evening, tomorrow, and next Sunday at the New York Film Festival.
Update: Adam Nayman in Reverse Shot: “Gloria’s festival circuit-success will inevitably lead to its being seen as a standard-bearer for the ‘New Chilean Cinema,’ which currently counts Pablo Larraín as its paterfamilias and Sebastian Silva—he of the recent double-barreled collaboration with Michael Cera in Crystal Fairy and Magic Magic—as its crossover figure. The film’s appeal to an international mainstream audience lies in the way it skillfully doles out the requisite ‘local color’ without following Larraín’s lead of highly politicized storytelling: aside from a briefly glimpsed campus protest, Gloria’s Chile appears to be relatively prosperous and untroubled. And while there’s surely an element of national specificity to the story’s portrait of a woman whose solitude places her on the margins in both her personal and professional lives, this is also a universal theme—one that should hit home with the soft-art-house demographic to which Lelio’s film will undoubtedly be marketed.”
Updates, 10/14: “Gloria, in its affectionate, lightly comic, yet unsparing gaze at a middle-aged woman’s day-to-day travails, offers a necessary corrective to the usual Hollywood attitude toward such subjects,” grants Kenji Fujishima at the House Next Door. “Whether the film adds up to more than the sum of its good intentions is another matter.”
Tina Hassannia for Slant: “With its compelling and original approach to its romance narrative, coupled with García’s nuanced and intuitive performance, the film delicately balances an entire octave of emotions.”
Update, 10/28: At Twitch, Eric Ortiz Garcia asks Lelio about his dedicating a screening of Gloria at the Morelia Film Festival in Mexico to Alejandro Jodorowsky: “Yes, well, Jodorowsky has always been, for any Chilean, a gift, an invitation to freedom, exploration and art. He’s a great presence.”
Update, 10/30: Viewing (5’04”). Guy Lodge talks with García for the Guardian.
Updates, 11/1: “The film’s pulse comes in many ways from García’s brave and beautiful central performance,” writes Maria Delgado for Sight & Sound. “She dominates the movie from the very beginning as the camera picks her out in the swarming disco. She is present in every frame and Lelio shapes the film to ensure that the viewer is given the sense of entering her world, sharing the front seat of her car as she drives to work and the intimacy of her lovemaking scenes with Rodolfo…. Her style is all her own: passionate, fearless, determined and, like Lelio’s film, eloquently uplifting.”
“There’s a bigness of reach and vision throughout this movie, even when distilling itself, more than once, to a single shot of a single woman in the lonely clamor of a singles bar,” writes Nigel Andrews in the Financial Times. More from Geoff Andrew (Time Out London, 4/5), Peter Bradshaw (Guardian, 4/5), Sophie Monks Kaufman (Little White Lies, where she also interviews Lelio), and Kieron Tyler (Arts Desk).