Gloria begins in a disco in contemporary Santiago de Chile. The woman of the title, the fun-loving yet enigmatic divorcée (Paulina García), sits at the bar smoking a cigarette as dancers crowd the floor.
She is still in the dating game, and, given the repeated use of Latin pop in the film, there is the merest touch of another Gloria (Gaynor) and I Will Survive. But it’s only a hint, and there is nothing here that ever threatens to turn this wonderful character into caricature.
Because, right from the off, the viewer cannot resist Gloria's open, attractive and beautifully expressive face, an openness which those big Dustin Hoffman-as-Tootsie spectacles only accentuate. We are quickly acquainted with her changing expressions, her ever-changing moods, her sensitivity, her innate maternal decency. It's almost like we can second guess her sometimes, so convincing is Garcia's performance.
This formidable actress seems to effortlessly inhabit the role of this woman, who lives alone. Gregarious yet vulnerable, she is sustained by the occasional company of her cleaning lady, her son Pedro (Diego Fontecilla) and her grandson, whom she babysits. She is dearly attached to her daughter Ana (Fabiola Zamora). Ana, however, has fallen in love with a young Swede and is naturally untying the apron strings.
Thus we sometimes see Gloria suddenly left on her own, as her two grown-up kids get on with their lives, and she retreats to the arena of her own solitary domestic existence. That ebbing and flowing movement, back and forth, between the public - she has an office job - and the private Gloria is one of the fascinating devices at play in this ingenious film. We see the talkative woman in company, we see the more reflective Gloria at home in an introspective mood, ignoring phones.
An older man called Rodolfo (Sergio Hernández) comes into her life. He's a rather odd, neurotic individual, but to reveal more would simply spoil the story. Suffice to say that Rodolfo’s longing for Gloria is all-consuming, and there is certainly mutual affection and sexual attraction between the pair. He owns an amusement park, which specialises in paintball. Hold that thought, because a paintball gun is instrumental in a very amusing scene late in the film. Spirited, yet light and easy too, Gloria is a real tonic.