‘Gloria’ Is Packing Heat

Chilean delight does what American rom-coms cannot

See it now, and see it before the inevitable insufferable American remake. Word will be getting out about Gloria.

There’s usually a good turnout for a film about a divorcée going wild—”women of a certain age” never lose the habit of movie-going. Yet instead of a film about a woman’s self-consciousness and shyness, there’s genuine heat in Gloria, in which the inevitable and insufferable is certain to geld.

Gloria (Paulina García) is a Santiagoan divorced for 10 years. Out dancing one night, she meets the courtly Rodolfo (Sergio Hernández), an ex–naval officer now running a paintball emporium. Though age has seasoned Gloria’s body, director Sebastián Lelio insists this be a meeting of bodies as well as minds (Gloria’s getting glaucoma and has to keep her glasses on when they tryst).

By adding more background details of the lead characters’ lives and throwing in some politics, Gloria, the official Chilean selection for the upcoming Academy Awards’ Best Foreign Film category, does what the standard American rom-com doesn’t. The film notes the student unrest current in Chile, and also shows how coolly Gloria’s family welcomes Rodolfo: the Chilean navy committed some of the worst crimes of the fascist regime.

Despite Chile’s past, Leilo shows us a culture alive to pleasure. We get the delight of seeing our characters spend a dirty weekend in Viña del Mar and attend a dinner party where an impromptu samba breaks out. And I like the ardor with which Gloria looks at everything: a consoling pisco sour, a man she’s about to husk out of his clothes, even a tiny skeleton marionette wielded by a street performer. Here, we see her get on her knees and stare the puppet down. This is a woman who gets the memento mori joke and has decided not to be amused or afraid.

‘Gloria’ is screening at the Rafael Film Center, 1118 Fourth St., San Rafael. 415.454.1222.

Sonoma County Library