Gloria, Or Why I Prefer Foreign Cinema


I love a movie that makes me jump up at the end, arms outstretched in victory. Sebastián Lelio's 2013 film Gloria is one that not only found me mirthfully dancing through its end credits (followed by a trip to youtube to locate the song by Umberto Tozzi to shimmy some more), but serves as a prime example of why I love foreign cinema. Paulina García stars as the titular character, a professional, middle aged/middle class divorcée in modern day Chile. She's got the best disposition ever: vivacious, passionate, open to opportunities and actively in search of new experiences. 

Unapologetically confident and sexy, Gloria owns her life and handles the loneliness of being a single mother of adult children with grace and dignity. While she has a nice enough family, dysfunctional as any, life is far from perfect. The movie opens on a sea of bodies dancing to Frecuencia Mod's Duele, Duele (literally translates to Hurts, Hurts), slowly settling on Gloria sitting alone at the bar. A few minutes into the film, during another night at the disco, she's asked if she is always happy. Not always, she admits, just like everyone else. And this is why I not only love foreign films, but fervently prefer them.

An unapologetically middle-aged woman, who is not at all conventionally attractive, but is deeply loved, admired and desired? There are zero sight gags or obvious editing techniques used to put down or make fun of the characters. The narrative does not seek to punish any character for questionable behavior or past mistakes. Instead the film simply shows the consequences of poor choices, for example, the strain on a father-daughter relationship at a celebratory family dinner party. The past, however, never becomes the topic of discussion. It is a real slice of life portrayal, where punishment lies in the consequences of one's choices. 

The camera operates as a silent observer, nonjudgmental, but curious. Who wouldn't be curious about Gloria? García's portrayal delivers a model of the possibilities of womanhood, a life that still holds pleasures. All humans who survive past a certain age experience the vagaries of aging. Instead of being tragic, Gloria makes the conscious choice to navigate her circumstances in the ways she does, full of joy or of acceptance. It's much wiser to let things go, flow with the currents and not fight life; it's a losing battle. Sometimes we feel lonely. That's okay. It is much better to be single than stuck in a relationship with a person who ultimately brings nothing but negativity. It is a personal choice, however, and it is up to Gloria to decide whether to give up or dance on.

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