The Chilean film “Gloria” is a rare kind of movie — a story about a normal person, her normal world and her normal love affairs.
Opening today, the comedy-drama, which was Chile’s submission for the best foreign-language film Oscar (although not nominated), stars Paulina Garcia as the title character, a 58-year-old divorcee who goes to classes and nightclubs searching for love. She meets a dashing, silver-haired man, Rodolfo (Sergio Hernandez), but baggage from his former marriage causes new problems for her.
How did writer-director Sebastian Lelio, 39, come to tell the story of this older woman?
“I’ve seen this in many women of that age,” he said during a recent phone conversation. “Despite what anyone says, they are not at home. They are willing to fight to be alive. I think that’s very moving.”
Lelio, who created the role of Gloria especially for Garcia, called to ask her permission before he wrote one word.
“It’s been a long love story,” says the filmmaker, who first saw Garcia on a soap opera when he was 7 or 8 years old.
Garcia was flattered. Speaking via Skype, Garcia describes her character as a woman who is “working hard for happiness. She understands that life is long yet for her. There’s a lot of life and she’s going to have it.”
With a screenplay containing little dialogue — “I write it but I don’t show it to the actors. I have it in case of emergency,” Lelio says — “Gloria” represented a big challenge for Garcia, who works primarily in theater and is used to memorizing lines.
Garcia says the job was hard in the beginning: “What words should I use? Big ones or little ones?”
Eventually, she saw the process as organic. “Sebastian planted this little seed of the plot, and we made the tree grow up. And he picked what he needed.”
“The mystery of film is not in the script,” Lelio says. “It’s in the shooting, in the interacting of humans and space and time. I rewrote so many things. The actors naturally brought a lot of things and a lot of ideas.”
Another unusual factor for Garcia was that one co-star was a hairless cat that invades Gloria’s apartment from time to time.
“It’s like a turkey with a long tail,” she laughs. “It was a very tender cat. It always wanted to be beside you. I don’t like cats too much, but that cat was something really special.”
IF YOU GO
Starring Paulina Garcia, Sergio Hernandez, Marcial Tagle, Diego Fontecilla
Written and directed by Sebastian Lelio