Gloria Bell

Julianne Moore brings warmth to the remake

Try to think of five movies about single men, middle aged or older, muddling their way through life. The chances are that, via Jack Nicholson in a Winnebago, Paul Giamatti in Wine Country and various instances of Tom Hanks rediscovering himself, it shouldn’t be too much of a challenge. Now try to think of the same number of equivalent female-led films. According to mainstream cinema, the middle-aged woman is a rarely sighted creature, like some timid, endangered gazelle who is camouflaged into near invisibility. Which is why, despite initial reservations about Chilean director Sebastián Lelio remaking his own film about a fiftysomething woman whose appetite for life, love and cheesy disco classics remains undimmed, I welcome this English-language version.

Julianne Moore takes the title role in a remake that, while not quite shot for shot, is close enough for fans of the original to notice a subtle change in tone. This is a film with a softer embrace, a warmth and acceptance that is, in part, due to Lelio’s increased maturity as a film-maker but, mostly, is thanks to Moore’s engaged, generous work in the role. Her Gloria is a natural appeaser, who oils a sticky social situation – the birthday of her depressed adult son – with a nervous slick of small talk. But, it becomes increasingly clear, she is no pushover. If not a coming of age, the film is a “coming to terms” of sorts – a portrait of a woman who owns her bad decisions (John Turturro’s needily skittish divorcee) and moves on to claim the happiness that is her right. Together with a soundtrack that blends quizzical motifs by Matthew Herbert and playfully employed MOR standards, which mark out the chapters in Gloria’s on/off romance, Moore’s subtle, empathetic work elevates what could be dismissed as a small-scale, even banal story.