Don’t be afraid of your senses, they are a wonderful gift.
Sex is everywhere Gloria (Stefania Tortorella) turns. She can’t sleep because the people in the apartment above her are at it every single night like clockwork. A photographer takes antique images of couples outside the bookstore where she works—love captured with every smile. And her co-worker and best friend Sandra (Nenan Pelenur) has a new boyfriend each day to the point where Gloria never knows which beau she’s talking about. Gloria is tired, listless, and without any hope of finding something beyond her love of books and encyclopedic knowledge of every author who ever lived (handy for a revolving door of idiotic customers). Sandra jokes that one good orgasm will wake her up to a brand-new day, but she’s having none of it. Until … it happens.
Directed by Marcela Matta and Mauro Sarser (who also writes), Muerto con Gloria [Ghosting Gloria] plays as a comedy from the opening prologue of a yet unknown character (Federico Guerra) having the worst luck possible. The pratfalls eventually lead to his untimely demise—bad for him, but great for Gloria. Why? Because she’s desperate to get out from under the sex-crazed bunnies. She therefore rents out her flat, moves into the deceased’s now vacated property, and seeks to enjoy the first good night’s rest in ages. Except that’s difficult to accomplish with a ghost around. What begins as a horror-infused haunting of smashed plates and powered electronics, however, soon moves to the bedroom. Yes. Gloria’s best sex ever comes courtesy of a supernatural entity (consent is very gray).
Add a few more obnoxious customers armed with hilarious one-liner requests, some eccentric supporting players (Noelia Campo‘s blind and mysterious Ludmila as well as Cecilia Sánchez’s medium Roberta amongst them), and some genuinely surprising twists and turns and this genre mash-up can’t help but keep you invested and entertained whether it works one hundred percent of the way or not. Because besides the comedy and horror comes a rather poignant desire for romance despite its most transparent examples proving lust-fueled fantasies. Gloria does want a relationship after all. Having this affair with a ghost has allowed her to let go of her fears about no one ever being able to measure up to her expectations. His not needing food, bathrooms, or time to himself certainly helps.
Once Gloria’s feelings go far enough for her to ignore the advances of perfect, living suitors (Marco Manfrini‘s Ángel), the chance that it might not work out (Could it ever?) ultimately teases irreparable devastation. Matta and Sarser are thus keenly aware of the fact that they must toe the line between farce and emotional honesty with precision so as not to ruin one half of the tone with the other. It’s the kind of tightrope act that can’t be executed without seeing a few strings, but none are ever so obvious that we’re taken out of the already heightened drama at its back. Will Gloria and the ghost live happily ever after? Or will their time together give her the chance to be happy without him?
And maybe there’s no ghost at all. Maybe he’s just a figment of Gloria’s imagination that allows her to let loose and feel pleasure without needing to let herself be vulnerable with anyone real. She’s not the only one struggling with this war between desire and devotion either. Just as Sandra asks her if she’s ever orgasmed, Gloria asks her friend if she’s ever been in love. One avoids human connection because it always disappoints her while the other revels in it because it distracts her from the fact that none of her relationships mean anything. The world doesn’t help in these matters when it sets rules like the one their boss (Sarser’s Gustavo) enforces: employees aren’t allowed to be intimate. Careers and life become combative enemies.
That reality only leads to more misconceptions, though, as these characters advance rapidly towards changing dynamics and surprising connections. I can honestly say I never really knew where things might go past the mid-way point. You can assume what will happen when you’re shown a love triangle between real (Ángel) and fake (the ghost), but what about when both prove to be dead ends? Ghosting Gloria is a romantic comedy, but it’s not afraid to cut its loses and pivot so that the result becomes the best possible road for its lead. Just because Matta and Sarser introduce specific people early doesn’t mean they have to stick to them as their only potential happily-ever-afters. Gloria is getting a crash course on romance that demands introspection first.
Tortorella is great in the role. She’s demanding with inferior men and empathetic with customers trying to traverse unavoidably complicated lives to which she can easily relate. Her Gloria is quick to fall into daydreams about what the future could hold (quiet country living, kids, and always books) that will either turn people off or get them excited and yet both options ultimately come across as hollow considering the first date environment and implications. Only when she finds a human connection that goes beyond just the physical, philosophical, etc. does it truly matter as she realizes an intellectual and emotional equal means much more than the “perfect fantasy” that’s always set her up to fail. She might simply have to go to Heaven and back to recognize it.
courtesy of Fantasia International Film Festival