Gloria (an extraordinary Paulina Garcia) is one of God’s dancers who kept her own beat. Though still a lovely woman in her “mid years” who sports a happy face, a thin veil of sadness floats about her. She once had a happy marriage that went off the rails somewhere. We can tell that it was HIS fault when we meet him at a reunion party. He has now remarried a younger beauty and keeps rubbing her bare arms. That tells us heaps about him.

But now Gloria is on her own, and thanks to her smarts, she has a good job and comfortable apartment.

At various birthdays and occasions, we meet Gloria’s two kids by that marriage, a daughter, a yoga instructor who is about to marry and go to Sweden with a curly-haired mountain climber, and a married son with his own problems. It’s a normal family broken into three pieces by divorce.

This leaves Gloria floating around her children’s lives like confetti from a party no one remembers, and like all parents who are aging, just a bit out of focus. Mama is hurting and hiding it, but the kids are too busy trying to build their Lego lives to notice that she is a viable, sensuous woman searching for love.

What kids really want to know what their single mama is doing in bed at night?

But here is our Gloria out solo in the Chilean nights, drinking a bit too much, and dancing in the middle of the candy colored strobe lights with much younger creatures, all of them twirling and hipping without looking at one another. They’re young, maybe 30s, and hip, all too beautiful and smartphone brain damaged to know that a real human, one who grew up with dial phones, is bleeding to death on the floor to a Latin rock beat.


The comedy that folds in here like two eggs beaten into a batch of dark bread, involves Rodolfo, a just divorced, former naval officer, now a rumpled suit with disappearing gray hair, sad eyes and a pleasant, faded charm about his moves. But Gloria is not picky. Both of them simply want to light love’s old flame once more. A future may be possible, but tonight will do.

Rodolpho and Gloria grow closer and after one night on the town, go to bed. Here is where the sex becomes real. This is not Antonio Banderas and Penelope Cruz on silk sheets, it’s more an attractive Fred and Ethel Mertz, Lucy’s neighbors. Well, Gloria’s better looking than Ethel, but this passionate tryst in full frontal exposure may get giggles from a younger Facebook crowd. It’s very real, and very real isn’t in demand in a sexting world.

Roldopfo has had weight surgery and wears a girdle, and Gloria has succumbed to too many tapas lunches.

The quirky Roldofo keeps getting cell calls from his two unmarried, unemployed daughters, who live with their needy mother who also calls in the middle of important moments. Funny? A bit, but it’s too late in both lives for comic relief.

Rodolfo seems to want a slower go, more hand holding over candle light. But our Gloria, who clearly once had higher kicks in her dance routine, is eager to recreate the flame and heat of her 20s. When Rodolfo keeps suddenly leaving her at parties and even worse, completely abandoning her at a vacation hotel in the south, Gloria suspects that there is more here than meets the eye.

“Gloria” thankfully, is about Gloria. No one else in the film can match her charisma.

As writer director Sebastian Lelio is rightfully in love with her fading Spanish eyes and encroaching wrinkles, she’s in every single frame. So it’s Paulina Garcia’s aqua to carry, and she has to do some heavy lifting.

Garcia is an amazing woman full of gifted moves and holds the screen just staring out into the ocean scape of an oncoming empty future. I’ve never seen her work, but it’s clear she must have laid down some great moments in past films. Benjamin Echazarreta’s camera which constantly dances around her, is skillfully held, and the haunting music is lovingly folded into the action without drowning out the actors. “Gloria” deserves a look.

J.P. Devine is a former stage and screen actor.

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