Gloria (Paulina Garcia) is in her 50s, has been divorced for a dozen or so years, likes to frequent clubs for mature singles in Santiago, Chile, and dance -- with or without a partner.
A little drinking, flirting and, sometimes, sex are involved, too. You have a problem with that? She certainly doesn't, so get over it if you plan to see this deservedly R-rated movie.
The title character in "Gloria" is the mother of an adult son and daughter who are increasingly leading their own lives. She's not opposed to something that might blossom into a relationship and it appears she might have found it with Rodolfo (Sergio Hernandez), a businessman who has been divorced for a year.
Rating: R for sexual content, some graphic nudity, drug use and language.
However, he is reluctant to tell his girls, 27 and 31 years old, that he is seeing Gloria. He fears they will taunt, "You have a girlfriend, you silly old man!"
This running point of contention for Gloria, who has no problem introducing him to her family, is set against the backdrop of a changing Chile.
"It's hard to love it," a dinner guest says. "Because so many things have happened that what Chile used to be now seems like a ghost, as if that Chile were dead and what was built afterward is a kind of replica of something that's being devised in some part of the world where the driving force is just greed."
That thread, from director and co-writer Sebastian Lelio, is lost or certainly takes a backseat to the powerful personal story of a woman who feels and thinks far younger than her chronological age. That sometimes lands her in trouble, especially when too much alcohol and too few inhibitions are involved.
"Gloria," which won Ms. Garcia best actress honors at the 2013 Berlin International Film Festival, is that rare movie focusing on a divorcee of a certain age whose spirit and energy may occasionally flag but never fail her. When she pulls out of her funk, you cannot help but cheer her unwillingness to be consigned to the sidelines of life or accept shabby treatment from a man who should know -- and do -- better.
The one huge hole in the story is the lack of female friends for Gloria. Where is the gossipy chat, over red wine or iced coffee, about the man who seems like a good match except for his overly dependent adult daughters? Does he deserve another chance?
Other than that, Mr. Lelio gives moviegoers a vibrant sense of Gloria's world, from her dealings with a troubled noisy neighbor to her typically messy modern-day family. "Gloria," which uses the Umberto Tozzi song of the same name, is a small movie with a big sympathetic presence at its center. And heart.
Opens today at the Manor Theater in Squirrel Hill. In Spanish with English subtitles.
Movie editor Barbara Vancheri: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1632. Read her blog: www.post-gazette.com/madaboutmovies.
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