- 17 Jun 19
A sublime portrait of a woman searching for meaning.
Chilean writer and director Sebastian Leilo has always been interested in the untold stories of women. His stunningly intimate, Oscar-nominated A Fantastic Woman explored a trans woman’s experiences of grief and bigotry after her partner dies. He adapted Naomi Alderman’s novel Disobedience, the story of a rabbi’s lesbian daughter who returns to her Orthodox community. And now Leilo has remade his own 2013 Gloria, a wistful, Santiago-based portrait of a 58-year-old divorcee.
In this Los Angeles-set retelling, a resplendent Julianne Moore plays our lead; a divorcee with grown children (Michael Cera and Alanna Ubach) who are starting families of their own. A cat keeps appearing in Gloria’s apartment, a whiskered, unwelcome reminder of the cat-lady stereotypes facing single women her age.
Leilo has a talent for capturing life’s gorgeous and excruciating absurdities, and the humanity of his characters. He shows Gloria’s warm but melancholic nature through intimately specific fragments; quick glimpses into a life. Gloria attends laughter therapy, chuckling in unison with a group full of strangers. The first time she has sex with fellow divorcee Arnold (John Turturro), she has to un-Velcro his post-gastric band surgery girdle. Gloria’s upstairs neighbour is having a violent nervous breakdown. Conversational snippets about retirement money, gun violence and plastic surgery show the uncertainty of the world around her.
Leilo’s empathy for his characters is matched by his actors’ skills. Turturro captures the frustration of a man struggling with his demanding daughters and ex-wife, while Moore captures the cycle of hope and heartbreak that accompany his neglect. Moore’s performance is rooted in her ability to convey several emotions at once, and she is utterly sublime throughout, creating a portrait of love, loneliness and luminosity. At one of Gloria’s beloved ’80s themed nights, Laura Branigan croons “Gloria, you’re always on the run now”. Our Gloria has reason to run. But in fact, she’s dancing.