“Gloria” was Chile’s official submission for this year’s foreign language Oscar — it didn’t make the cut, no fault of the film — and if voters had the eyes to see it, the movie might have made a run at best actress, too. It’s a character portrait of a kind of woman mainstream media barely notices: divorced, hovering around 60, kids grown, not especially interested in self-pity. Another country (ours, for instance) might have tried to make a feminist hero out of her or contrived a cozy romance. Director Sebastian Lelio is content to just watch her.
And why shouldn’t he, given the sneakily delightful presence of Paulina Garcia in the title role? Gloria is comfortable in her little Santiago life: She holds down an office job, has a nice apartment, sees her daughter (Fabiola Zamora), single-dad son (Diego Fontecillo), and grandson often. She has a face that looks worn with disappointment but lights up easily; behind those big, red “Tootsie” glasses is a mind both resigned to and tickled by the world. An early scene of Gloria driving to work while singing along to a cheesy love song on the radio wins you over, then and there.