The wonderful, must-see Chilean import Gloria drops on home audiences today, boasting a beautiful performance by Paulina Garcia in the lead role. A sort of coming-of-middle-age tale, it’s a film of surprising honesty and candor, with every emotional moment heightened by Garcia’s generous performance.
Treading somewhat similar territory and yet telling a tale entirely its own is Starting Out in the Evening. Here’s another film boasting an absolutely magnificent central performance, this time from the ever-reliable Frank Langella, who plays a long-retired writer coaxed back into the profession and into life. It’s bittersweet and deeply touching, with Langella hitting every emotional note perfectly.
The Academy did a nice job this year in honoring foreign language films. Each candidate was wonderful, and we were especially pleased to see The Hunt and The Broken Circle Breakdown get attention. But the fact is, there were so many exceptional foreign language titles released this year, a lot of really wonderful movies didn’t get the nod. And that’s too bad, because without the Academy stamp, they went largely unnoticed in theaters. So, we decided to honor them ourselves. Please enjoy our list of the best foreign language films that did not get an Oscar nomination this year.
If there’s one thing the films on our list have in common, it’s the strength of their female leads. Nowhere is this more the case than with the Chilean import Gloria. Paulina Garcia owns the title role with a performance that is raw emotion in action. With nary a false note, Garcia takes us on whirlwind coming-of-middle-age tale that never ceases to surprise.
2. Blue is the Warmest Color
Moving at its own pace, the French film packs an emotional wallop as it follows young Adele (Adele Exarchopoulos) through her first affair of the heart. Anchored by Exarchopoulos’s powerhouse performance, and her touching chemistry with co-star Lea Seydoux, Blue is a beautifully human, wildly compelling love story.
3. The Past
Available today on DVD is a poignantly complicated, beautifully told tale of family dysfunction and the constant presence of our past. Blessed with unflinching performances – particularly from a magnificent Berenice Bejo – the wonderfully textured The Past keeps your attention as its mystery slowly unravels before your eyes.
4. Beyond the Hills
A Romanian story of forbidden love, progress and superstition, Beyond the Hills offers an understated and unhurried picture that leaves you shaken. A tale of survival and a displaced generation’s quest for security, the film makes for a beautiful examination of the weird, counter-productive, even dangerous relationship between primitive and modern Romania.
5. A Touch of Sin
That same tug of progress against a backdrop of old world creates the dehumanizing and corrupt environment for Zhangke Jia’s A Touch of Sin. The film dips a toe in four interweaving stories of individuals torn by the too-rapid cultural shift in China. Amid bullet and arterial spray, four beautifully developed characters struggle against their own bleak futures.
The only film opening this Valentine’s weekend that is truly worthy of your time is Gloria, a Chilean import that is its own kind of coming of age picture.
A magnificent and utterly fearless Paulina Garcia offers a three dimensional performance like few could manage as Gloria, a vibrant woman in her late fifties still interested in living and loving. A new romance offers the opportunity to weigh independence against passion and stability, and watching Gloria sift through the options is mesmerizing.
Expertly written by director Sebastian Lelio and co-scriptor Gonzalo Maza, the film unfolds before you without a hint of contrivance. This is the kind of film where you sometimes forget there is a script, or even actors. Instead, you feel you are wandering through a particularly tempestuous few weeks with one of the most fascinating and genuine creatures on earth.
Enough cannot be said about Garcia’s performance. She is electric, a set of raw emotions ready to burst in the most unexpected and yet perfectly natural ways. Whether a quick weep or a bout of uncontrolled laughter, every scene could go either way. Her performance, and the film, holds a refreshing acceptance of life’s absurdity.
Like Garcia herself, the movie boasts a stubborn beauty emerging from a comfortably worn form. There is nothing inauthentic about the picture – not a single scene rings false. The film, like Gloria, embraces joy and opportunity without shying away from heartache, loneliness or disappointment. Lelio unflinchingly observes it all.
This is such an intelligently written film, one that doesn’t judge or pontificate, never steps into sentimentality. Lelio doesn’t surgarcoat the life of an aging, single woman, nor does he find it to be necessarily unpleasant. He’s honest, and he is blessed with a lead performance that can be just as honest, just as fearless, just as open.
The film is a character study, but more than that, it’s a study of life and living. It’s a remarkable piece of work, just like its leading lady.