This Chilean finding-herself slice of life comedy is one of those small, quiet movies that should be way more popular than it undoubtedly is going to be. It’s a movie about someone living in a desperate place in life trying to find any sort of meaningful connection to others to justify all the rest of it. That’s all of us all the time everywhere, but in this instance it’s Gloria, a middle-aged woman who likes dancing and her adult children and men despite the fact the latter two don’t particularly seem to know what to do with her and her general insular verve.
There’s a melancholy over the film, a sense of frustration that this is what life has lead her to in its last third, a sense of opportunities long past and a thousand roads not traveled but whose markers still stand on the edges of her vision. The children who tolerate her. The ex-husband she never sees. The well-to-do socialite friends who seem to exist in a whole other world from her. There’s only her, with a sense of self that’s well defined but not impervious to the pains of being human, and how she tries to get on with her life and derive some sort of enjoyment and greater meaning from it.
I love that this movie is so devoted to the interior life of this character, the kind that would never been given anything more than third tier billing in a more conventional (read: Hollywood) production. This is about her interior space, about how she watches the world through huge glasses and only pours her heart out through song in the sanctuary of her car. She dances with abandon but is coy when questioned about it. What past she has is only expressed through the present, but everything that is her now is on display, relevant and here. She isn’t a story, she’s a person, and we’re let in only to see that personhood.
The men she interacts with are left only as impressionistic vestiges on the margins of her life, either too pushy or too old or too middling. The only one she manages any real feeling for is weasley and self-defacing in a way that inspires sympathy and pity. He needs someone like Gloria, his being pleads, to bring color and enthusiasm into his sad subservient life. She’s initially glad to help, and goes out of her way for him, but then finally rolls around to matching the audience’s own disgust when all the good will is extinguished. It’s a messy end, and Gloria is left on the other side wondering how easily her sense of self drifted away in the ease of pouring it into another person. It’s often ugly but utterly honest, and one cannot help but cheer the pure basic humanity of it all.