YOUNG AT HEART: Paulina García delivers a tour-de-force performance as Gloria, a vivacious single woman in her 50s.
City Paper grade: B+
Long divorced and nearing her 60s, Gloria (Paulina García) knows who she is, but not necessarily how she fits into the world. Meeting Rodolfo (Sergio Hernández) at a nightclub doesn’t change that, exactly, but it upsets her carefully ordered — if not exactly satisfying — life enough to make her question whether her habits are the product of self-knowledge or a fear of changing.
Chilean director Sebastián Lelio unrolls his film at a leisurely pace, almost fetishizing the lack of incident. But it’s a pleasure to soak in the details of Gloria’s life, and especially of García’s multilayered performance, which never lets her character become the object of pity or warm feelings for too long. As Gloria does with Rodolfo, she draws us close, perhaps for a quick afternoon rendezvous, then turns us away. Though she’s attached to her own children, she bristles every time Rodolfo takes a cell-phone call from one of his own kids, often heedless of where he is or what he’s doing. After she mocks him at a dinner party, he abruptly vanishes, leaving her to decide whether hers or his is the greater offense.
In a sense, there’s not much to Gloria besides García’s performance, but that’s like saying there’s not much to a hurricane beyond the wind and the rain. Like the film itself, García’s bearing isn’t showy, but it conveys both the weight of the years she’s lived and the life still left in her. (She even has sex, which is notable less for its presence here than its absence from virtually every other film about like characters.) It’s a deeply satisfying movie, even if it’s never particularly exciting.
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