No Expectations

Commentary on the Film: Gloria
  By Mountain Shadow director, John Bennison

[Comedy•Drama R-rating 110 min from Chile, English subtitles]

Note: “Gloria” was the Mountain Shadow’s feature film in August, 2014

“It’s so nice to see an adult love story and a middle-aged woman as the heroine of a film. Until you see it, you don’t realize how rare that is. Gloria is someone you would like to go have a drink with.” 
                                Peggy Hora, Mountain Shadow member and Board VP

A big thanks to Peggy Hora, for bringing this film to our attention. While several Mountain Shadow members saw this film elsewhere outside our locale earlier this year, it’s remained on our list of top choices, and we’re delighted to have the Library Foundation co-sponsor this month’s show in a collaborative effort to bring diversity in the cinematic arts to downtown Walnut Creek.

Peggy’s observation (above) caused me to take a mental inventory of the kinds of films Mountain Shadow has presented in our first nine months as a film society. Without consciously intending to do so, we seem to have bucked the trend when it comes to films featuring heroines of one sort or another. Or at least the challenges women face seeking to discover and become their own true selves.  

The conclusion to Fill the Void – when, in their bed chamber, the young bride stands before her new husband in an arranged ultra-Orthodox Haredi marriage -- certainly leaves the viewer wondering what will become of her.  The spunky Saudi teen Wadjda delightfully pushes the acceptable boundaries of her cultural confines; as her mother’s traditional marriage crumbles in a society where women have few rights, and comes to realize her young daughter has found greater fulfillment in non-conformity.  And Catherine DeNeuve’s character in On My Way takes a mature woman’s journey that leaves bygone youthful beauty and spurned love behind, to serendipitously find compatible contentment in the here and now.

Even some of the shorts we’ve screened have followed similar narratives; from Shanghai Love Market; to the wise and circumspect grandmother dealing with her teenage granddaughter in OMG; and the late Alice Herz-Sommers in The Lady in #6, with her indefatigable, light-spirited outlook on the music of life.

When I first previewed Gloria, I turned to Germaine and commented, “I’m the right age, but the wrong gender, to write a review of this film about the hopes, longings and realities of what has been referred to as a woman of a certain age.”  That, and where men are certainly not shown in a very good light. She agreed.

Then I happened to read three separate articles about the findings of various “scientific studies.”  In the first, women were perceived as easier to mislead, and more likely than men to be lied to by both men and women; according to researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Pennsylvania. The warmer a woman’s personality – according to the study -- the more she was expected to be easily fooled.  But as Elvis reminded us long ago, “Wise men say only fools rush in …”

Another study published in the Journal of Neuroscience found evidence that the brain immediately determines how trustworthy a face is before it’s fully perceived, which supports the fact that we often make very fast judgments about people.  The only counter-argument I can come up with is that sometimes it seems our brains don’t seem to work all that well. I think the character Gloria and I might agree on that score.

In a third study, researchers at University College London were presumably able to create a mathematical equation that could accurately predict the happiness quotient of over 18,000 test subjects.  The researchers were not surprised by how much rewards influenced happiness, but they were surprised by how much expectations could. The researchers say their findings do support the theory that if you have low expectations, you can never be disappointed. In Gloria’s experience, she might readily have come to that conclusion more than once.  

But researchers also found that the positive expectations you have for something—like going to your favorite restaurant with a friend they said (or for a drink, Peggy?) —is a large part of what develops your level of “happiness.”  Well, duh.

Interestingly, the study never bothers to define exactly what they mean by happiness. Whatever it is for Gloria, one can conclude by the film’s end that she found it beyond either any high expectations, or low expectations, outside of herself. And that’s something to which either gender can hopefully come to relate if one lives long enough.