The titular heroine of Ghosting Gloria/ Muerto Con Gloria’s life certainly isn’t exactly what she expected at thirty years old. Her love of literature has netted her little more than a demanding retail job in a bookstore in Montevideo. She also doesn’t have much of a social life, finding most of her peers out of step with her intellectual interests. Gloria (Stefania Tortorella) has a passion for reading that makes her very prepared for the vague requests and irrational demands of customers, but leaves little room for patience for the by the book ways of her power tripping manager (writer/co director Mauro Sarser).
Romance and sex are everywhere she looks, from the happy couples getting pictures snapped by a nearby street photographer to the patrons at work perpetually searching for pop psychology books about dating. Sandra (Nenan Pelenur), her best friend and coworker, has got so many men on her speed dial that even Gloria can’t keep their names straight. To add sleeplessness to singlehood, Gloria can’t even rest after a long day on her feet, constantly kept awake by her upstairs neighbors’ very vocal sexual escapades.
She’d love to be in love (or at least lust), but none of the guys she meets seem quite right for her, too boorish or too vapid. Sandra is constantly encouraging Gloria to date, have a one night stand, anything at all that might encourage her to have some fun and live a little. However, Gloria can’t quite bring herself to settle for the available options. During one of their many clandestine on the clock chats, it’s revealed that not only is she not seeing anyone in the romantic sense, but has yet to even experience an orgasm heading into her third decade on the planet.
Fed up with the lack of sleep and feeling stagnant, Gloria sublets her apartment and moves into a gorgeous place in a quieter part of the city. It’s renting for far below market rate, and regular genre viewers will recognize the catch immediately from the cold open. The previous owner was a young businessman named Dante (Federico Guerra), who died of a brain aneurysm right over the front threshold.
Soon the apartment is showing all of the typical signs of being haunted. The constant odd chills, power cuts, and tossed belongings make Gloria doubt her mental health, but the indifferent doctor she visits ignores her requests for a better solution than sleeping pills. Exhausted, she reluctantly takes one…..only to find that the spirit haunts her new home has more carnal desires than your usual poltergeist. Initially terrified, she then consents to his spectral come ons, and experiences her very first petite mort (emphasis on the second bit).
There’s a whirlwind supernatural romance, with Gloria consulting everything from Ouija boards to online spiritual mediums to ensure she can keep both her paranormal paramour (and by extension, herself) coming regularly. This particular plot thread is perhaps also meant to clear up some of the darker questions of consent their first encounter might raise for the audience. This dream date from beyond the grave concept is played for laughs, with snappy banter and beauty close ups that recall Old Hollywood’s tendency toward the screwball romantic comedy rather than the bleakness of something like The Entity.
There’s some passing visual and dialog nods to classic genre fare, but all of the various ghostly goings on are more about Gloria’s own paranormally kickstarted journey of self discovery than being legitimately scary to the viewer. Her previous lack of dates or orgasms seems to have less to do with the mechanics of physical connection, than the fear of vulnerability and intimacy. Dante’s ghost seems like the perfect boyfriend only because she’s free to explore the ways that sexual and romantic fluidity can crystallize what a person actually desires in the broad sense. It’s much easier to be bold when there is no risk in having to deal with the mundanities, miscommunications and conflicts that come with a real flesh and blood relationship.
Stefania Tortorella has charisma to spare, the camera loving her face in every frame. She brings a quiet kindness and relatability to Gloria even in her most reserved moments, guarded but still sympathetic. Her chemistry with Nenan Pelenur’s Sandra seems lived in, instantly recognizable to anyone who has made a lasting friend via the common enemy of an asshole boss. In fact, the sequences inside the bookstore are some of the film’s best moments, perfectly capturing the occasionally hilarious inanity that is working in any customer facing position. Sex comedies that are also this sex positive are rarer than they should be, and the fact that the script opts out of judging Gloria for seizing her agency and sexuality feels refreshing.
It also doesn’t hurt that Marcela Matta & Mauro Sarser’s visual choices as directors are full of interestingly framed shots and carefully calibrated color palettes that shift tones as the story switches gears. The self assured visuals are matched with a playful score that incorporates everything from traditional stinger cues to breezy pop and the obligatory “Gloria” needle drop. What all of this brightly busy narrative lacks in logic, it makes up for in solid aesthetics, finely tuned performances and breezy charm.
In fact, when the inevitable punny ghosting the title promises happens, the swerve toward darker topics and raw heartbreak reads as a stumble, the second act a bit too somber and serious to play to the film’s established strengths. This sudden about face does save the movie from the boring binary choice of spectral romance vs corporeal one, but the digression doesn’t have the emotional heft to justify the additional runtime.
When the film does find its way back to the whimsical magic realism it does best, Gloria’s journey toward a better path than the ones previously presented feels rushed. Whatever you’re searching for is inevitably found in the last place you look, but the particular corner she turns doesn’t have the build up it should to feel organic.
Regardless of the occasional wobble, the film’s lighthearted escapism will likely be an an easy crowd pleaser, and is one of the most likely titles from this year’s Fantasia Fest to receive a wide release once the circuit has ended. Sleek, stylish and with an excellent find in leading lady Stefania Tortorella, its genre boundary hopping appeal is hard to entirely dismiss. Ghosting Gloria is primarily as light and sweet as cotton candy, but at least all of that fluffy floss is made from the finest sugar available.
WICKED RATING: 6.5/10
Directors: Marcela Matta & Mauro Sarser
Writer: Mauro Sarser
Stars: Stefania Tortorella, Mauro Sarser, Fernando Amaral
Release date: August 11th, 2021
Studio/Production Company: Ecologito, Los Modernos Films
Run Time: 113 minutes