Sebastián Lelio on reimagining ‘Gloria’ with Julianne Moore in ‘Gloria Bell’

A portrait of a man looking away against a red wall.
Antonio Olmos /Courtesy

Related Posts

In a crowd of people, Gloria stands alone. She goes unnoticed by many, but the camera places its focus on her, treating her like the center of the world.

“Gloria Bell” follows its titular character (played by Julianne Moore) as she navigates both the dance floor and the ups and downs of love. Directed and co-written by Argentinian-Chilean filmmaker Sebastián Lelio, the film tells the story of a middle-aged divorcée, a protagonist who is not often seen in American cinema. Moore brings life and joy to the complicated and imperfect yet endearingly relatable protagonist.

Lelio is no stranger to telling stories about people whose voices are not often heard. In 2017 he directed his way to an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film with “A Fantastic Woman,” which stars a transgender woman (Daniela Vega). He also directed “Disobedience,” which came out the same year and which follows lesbian couple Ronit (Rachel Weisz) and Esti (Rachel McAdams).

In 2019, “Gloria Bell,” which will be released later this month, feels like a refreshingly original and modern feminist film — which is why it is surprising to note that it is a remake of Lelio’s 2013 “Gloria” — same story, same filmmaker.

It is a strange concept that a filmmaker would remake his own film — especially considering that the original received rapturous reviews and awards from various prestigious international film festivals, including those held in Toronto, Berlin and San Sebastián.

Nonetheless, Lelio was invigorated by the idea of a new “Gloria.” As he explained in an interview with The Daily Californian, his motivation came primarily from one source: Julianne Moore.

“I made it because of my admiration for Julianne Moore. She is an actress who is in complete control of her resources,” Lelio said.

Lelio and Moore have a history of shared admiration for each other. When they met in Paris in 2015, Moore confessed her love of the original “Gloria,” and Lelio spoke of his reverence for her acting. The movie was born on that summer day.

While the story is virtually the same in the most recent version, Lelio and Moore had no interest in doing an imitation of the original “Gloria.” According to Lelio, Moore makes the role entirely her own, bringing new life and humanity to this woman who has been beaten down time and time again by her relationships with men and her family. The role of Gloria requires an actress who can strike a balance between displaying both the imperfections and the endearing qualities of the main character, making her accessible for audience members.

“She has the mythical Hollywood element, but that doesn’t compete with the everyday woman dimension — she is able to incarnate both,” Lelio said of Moore.

Even with a seasoned Hollywood actress by Lelio’s side, the remake’s success was no sure bet. But Lelio saw it as too good of an opportunity to pass up and as a way to explore his filmmaking abilities.

“It was an exciting artistic challenge. It’s like doing a cover of a song — you’re not going to destroy the melody, you are just going to add new energy to make it sound great. It was all about looking to add more precision and sophistication,” he said.

“Gloria Bell” feels simultaneously timeless and modern. When crafting the original “Gloria,” Lelio set out to tell an authentic story of a woman in her 50s, even though he is a man who was, at the time, still in his 30s.

But, having grown up and lived around women his whole life, he seeks to make their voices heard and their experiences seen.

“My mother and her friends would gather and drink some pisco sours, and I would just listen to them talk and hear their stories. I gathered many comedic anecdotes, not knowing at the time it was film material,” Lelio recalled of his childhood.

Lelio tells “Gloria Bell” with authentic, genuine care for his characters — a diligence that shines through in the story of Gloria. As a sort of love letter to women, “Gloria Bell” is a story about a middle-aged woman that is sometimes comedic and sometimes depressingly truthful but always has good intentions.

Despite a change in language and location, the heart of the story still remains in “Gloria Bell” and makes its case for existing.

“Who says that you can’t tell your story again and make it relevant? I wanted to make it feel alive and vibrant and make it resonate again,” Lelio stated.

“Between the first and the second film(s), the world shifted and turned 180 degrees toward the Middle Ages,” Lelio said. “So suddenly, the story of a woman who claims her right to be seen and respected feels urgent and political.”

Lelio has succeeded in making “Gloria Bell” feel just as relevant and honest as the original film — it is only the world around it that has forced us to view it differently.

Contact Julia Mears at [email protected].