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A family on a ski holiday in the French Alps find themselves staring down an avalanche during lunch one day; in the aftermath, their dynamic has been shaken to its core, with a question mark hanging over their patriarch in particular.
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The big revelation in Chilean director Sebastian Lelio's Gloria is that older people are still interested in sex. Who would've thunk it? We thought they had moved on to other interests. In any event, in the superb performance by Paulina Garcia for which she won the Silver Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival in 2013, 58-year-old Gloria is definitely a "force of nature." Gloria (who is in every scene in the film) shows her zest for life by going to singles clubs on the weekends, dancing, drinking alcohol, smoking pot, singing along with the car radio, and having sex (not that there's anything wrong with that). You won't catch her doing old fogy things, such as body, mind, and spirit-nurturing type of stuff (except for a halfhearted stab at yoga).
She is, nonetheless, a courageous woman who fights off loneliness with tenacity remarkable at any age. Unfortunately, she also proves that she can be just as self-absorbed, unable to communicate, and inconsiderate as anyone, regardless of age or condition. Divorced for many years, Gloria lives alone in a small apartment in Santiago where, after working all day, she has to contend with the noise of a drug addict who lives upstairs. Her relationship with her adult children, Pedro (Diego Fontecilla), who has an infant and daughter Ana (Fabiola Zamora), who is pregnant with the child of her Swedish boyfriend, is good, at least on the surface.
The fact that she has to keep reminding them to call her, however, raises questions about how close their relationship is. One weekend at the dance club, Gloria connects with Rodolfo (Sergio Hernandez), an ex-Navy officer who has been divorced for one year, and they begin a relationship that seems promising. Rodolfo owns a small amusement park where he and Gloria have fun together, shooting each other with paint guns and bungee jumping. His continuing close relationship with his ex-wife and two daughters whom he supports financially, however, begins to get in the way and their good times together come to a sudden halt when Rodolfo meets Gloria's children and somewhat strange ex-husband Gabriel (Alejandro Goic) at Pedro's birthday party.
Feeling ignored to the point of being invisible, Rodolfo reacts to Gloria and Gabriel's reminiscing about the past and showing each other photos from the family album by abruptly getting up and leaving. After avoiding his phone calls for what appears to be several days, they finally meet but neither takes responsibility for what happened. Although he tries to explain what prompted his action at the party, she turns a deaf ear and continues to blame him for being "rude." A similar scenario plays out when they reestablish their friendship and spend a weekend at an upscale resort where the director does not flinch from showing their naked bodies in bed.
When Rodolfo receives a phone call from one of his daughters telling him that his ex-wife just had a serious accident, he is anxious to go and be with her. Instead of letting him know that it is okay with her if he chooses to go, Gloria tells him to let go of his past and be in present time. Without regards for his being upset at the moment, she presses him to agree to go with her on a ten-day vacation to Cuba. Though it is not surprising when he again walks out and leaves her alone, it is apparent that open and honest communication would have worked better. Again, blaming him for being rude, she cuts off all communications and petulantly unleashes a paint-gun attack on his home.
Without question, accolades are warranted for Garcia's performance and she deserves all the awards and nominations she has received. Gloria can be charming and the world could certainly use more free spirits, yet, while many will cheer her actions with a "you go girl" mindset, a distinction needs to be made between an independent spirit and those who behave in a juvenile manner. Unfortunately, however, Lelio does not make any. It is left to Gloria to finally figure out the difference between pleasure and joy.
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