I left this movie with my heart full. Sebastián Leilo’s (A Fantastic Women, Disobedience) English adaptation of his 2013 film Gloria feels like a real evocation of what it’s like to be a woman in her middle years.
I could watch Julianne Moore all day and Leilo and cinematographer Natasha Braier wisely stay close. Gloria (Moore) is like so many middle-class, white women of her age; divorced with two grown children who both need her and want to be independent; a job she is competent at but won’t necessarily set her up for retirement. She seems self-sufficient though often alone. The only sign of a crack in the solidity of her presence in the everyday is the soundtrack of 70s and 80s music that follows her from home to car to nightclub. This is where she dances; alone or with men she meets there. It speaks of a nostalgia for her youth, for a time when she was free and life stretched out before her.
Complexity comes into her day-to-day when Arnold (John Turturro) enters her life. He seems to be what she wants; someone like herself, who understands her, someone to fill the empty parts of her days and provide the companionship that it seems everyone needs. It’s not so simple though and soon the realities of where Arnold has gotten to in his life makes her question herself.
Leilo’s style is gently observational. We follow Gloria through her days, close enough to understand her but not so close we lose sight of the people and places that shape her world. The art direction and cinematography is subtle but gorgeous; Gloria running through the golden excess of a Vegas hotel, her face silhouetted against the glow of light through curtains, the other-worldly sterility of a hair salon.
Moore is superb – fragile, powerful, doubting, resolute. Other characters provide insight into her nature, in particular children Peter (nicely underplayed by Michael Cera) and Anne (Caren Pistorius), ex-husband Dustin (Brad Garrett) and, of course, Arnold. There are many other familiar faces – Rita Wilson, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Holland Taylor and Barbara Sukowa are just a few.
We see a range of fathers, none perfect, all trying hard but sometimes oblivious to the harm they create. We also see lots of women of Gloria’s age, battling with ageing, financial insecurity and loneliness. The ending is glorious; a two-parter that leaves you with no easy answers but enough hope.
Have you seen this film? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.