The coming of age tale has long been a staple of films. Gloria fits neatly into this category with one exception—Gloria is not a young woman in her late teens; she is pushing 60. Divorced for more than a decade with two fully grown children and a grandson, she is a far cry from the naive ingenue normally associated with the coming of age film, which gives Gloria a fresh take on the old theme of girl meets boy. The film balances a youthful exuberance with a more tempered, thoughtful maturity, reminding us that we never stop growing and continue to come of age with each passing decade of our lives.
Gloria follows its titular character as she navigates the various relationships in her life. She is a woman who is still searching for her sense of identity, but she is also bound by the responsibilities that come with having lived a significant portion of her life. Paulina García perfectly embodies this dichotomy. Vibrant and full of life, she frequents dance clubs and flirts with various men. She possesses the carefree demeanour usually associated with the ingenue, but there is an assuredness to García’s performance that is usually absent from the young leading lady. Moments of over-the-top exhuberance are tempered by quiet, thoughtful moments. The opening tracking shot swooping in from above to find Gloria standing alone at a bar, surveying the dancing couples in front of her gives us one of the film’s most poignant moments. She is impulsive, but not destructively so. As she dances, she catches a look from a man across the room. As they dance with other partners they continue to watch one another as the rest of the room fades out into the background. Except for the participant’s age, this could be a moment from the Capulet’s ball in Romeo and Juliet. The proceeding romance is just as passionate and all-consuming, complete with an impulsive ending.
The difference is that Gloria is not a film about grand gestures. If anything, it is a study in how the small, intimate moments define relationships, romantic or otherwise. The big things are memorable, but they are not what sustain a connection. They are a last ditch effort to salvage something that has already begun to crumble. This is what age grants us, the knowledge that it is the little things that really matter. They are what define us and allow us to continue to experience life to the fullest and sustain us through our many youthful mistakes, regardless of age.