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Originally published Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 3:05 PM

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‘Gloria’: Portrait of a woman at midlife

A 3.5-star review of the Sebastián Lelio film, “Gloria,” an intimate portrait of a woman at midlife.

Seattle Times movie critic

Movie Review 3.5 stars

‘Gloria,’ with Paulina García, Sergio Hernández, Marcial Tagle, Diego Fontecilla, Fabiola Zamora, Antonia Santa María. Directed by Sebastián Lelio, from a screenplay by Lelio and Gonzalo Maza. 110 minutes. Rated R for sexual content, some graphic nudity, drug use and language. In Spanish, with English subtitles. Meridian and Sundance Cinemas.

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It’s a small, low-key birthday party, for a young man in his 20s. His parents are present, but the years have brought changes: both are accompanied by dates. Photographs are brought out for reminiscing, and the now ex-husband and wife pose for a snapshot of them holding their wedding picture, taken so many years ago. At dinner, the mother raises a glass for a toast. “We’re all a little surprised,” she says softly, “by the twists and turns of life.”

The quiet, achingly real Chilean film “Gloria” is about that woman, played by Paulina García; an ordinary, middle-aged divorcee with an extraordinary resilience for navigating those twists and turns. Gloria lives alone in Santiago, checking in with her grown children by phone and quietly accepting her limited involvement in their lives. At night, she goes dancing, hoping to meet somebody nice. Rodolfo (Sergio Hernández), a former naval officer, seems to fit the bill — but while they’re sexually compatible, the baggage they both carry soon threatens their relationship.

García, who’s in every scene of the film, wonderfully conveys (even from behind her enormous “Tootsie” glasses) a woman who hasn’t yet lost her optimism, despite many setbacks. When she doesn’t know what to say, she laughs; when she tries something new (in this case, bungee jumping) she beams, opening her arms to the sky. We travel her life with her, and start carrying what she carries: a bad marriage, an emptiness where her children used to be, a neighbor who frighteningly shouts at night, a man who’ll give himself to her in bed, but not in life. And by the end, we dance with her, living in the moment as she does, not looking ahead to life’s next turn.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or

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