I saw this Mexican fantasy a couple of decades ago in its original Spanish (a language I don't speak) without subtitles, so some of my comments about minor details (such as names) may be a bit off-target.
Basically, this is the story of a beautiful but insecure and repressed Marta (the delicious Sasha Montenegro) who is routinely bullied by her rather disreputable husband and his awful family. When she reaches the limits of her resistance, Marta decides to end her sad existence by throwing herself into the sea. This attempted suicide is witnessed by another attractive young woman, Carlota (Maria Sorte), who happens to be boating in the area. Carlota doesn't think twice about her own safety when she leaps into the ocean to save the distraught woman. In performing this selfless act, however, Carlota slips into the depths and is herself drowned.
The unconscious Marta is found by the crew of a passing fishing boat and brought on broad. While she recovers (apparently experiencing a mild and transitory case of amnesia), she becomes attracted to a handsome crewman, but when her memory fully returns she realizes that she must go back to her abusive "family." The treatment she receives upon returning is, if anything. even worse, so Marta soon finds herself in her bath, emotionally crushed and again on the verge of taking her own life. It is at this point that the enjoyable fantasy elements surface (so to speak).
Before Marta can harm herself again, the ghost of Carlota appears to her. It seems that Carlota cannot proceed to the next level of existence as long as she leaves unresolved problems here on Earth, and her chief remaining problem is that of the suicidal Marta, for whom she has already given her life. Marta believes herself to be going insane upon seeing and speaking with this beautiful specter, naturally enough, and this feeling is compounded when no one else can detect the dead woman's presence. Finally, Marta is convinced of the reality of the other woman and pours out her heart to her in explanation of her attempts to take her own life.
Carlota is sympathetic, but she also possesses a much tougher personality than Marta. She tries to goad the still-living woman to stand up for herself, and when this fails, she comes up with a more radical plan: as a spirit, she is able to take over Marta's body while shifting Marta into her astral form. With nothing else to lose, Marta agrees, and the two swap bodies in an effective sequence that since has become rather a cliché in films of this sort -- lying on their backs and staring up into the camera while their ephemeral "souls" drift between their forms.
Carlota is happy to be corporeal again and quickly adjusts to being Marta physically. After this short period of realignment, she confronts Marta's husband and relatives and lays down the law to them, both verbally and more painfully (by handily beating up the startled husband). She also discovers that the underhanded group are involved in illegal activities and exposes them both to their would-be criminal associates and the police. Marta, in Carlota's body, watches all of this from the bath, where she (apparently) must remain while occupying this ghostly form.
During her sojourn as Marta, Carlota also encounters the fisherman whom Marta had become close to earlier in the film, and since the exposing of the husband and his kin has left Marta free again, their relationship can now be carried to the next step. Carlota returns to the bath -- as she knows she must --, and for all she has done for the timid woman, she asks one final favor: she wishes to remain in Marta's body while she and the fisherman make love. Marta agrees and watches this tender sequence happily. The end has come, however, and in a reverse of the first swap, the two spirits reunite with the proper bodies. Carlota can now move on to her reward in the afterlife, while Marta has a new beginning in this world with a man who truly loves her.
CON EL CUERPO PRESTADO has moments of comedy and rather surprising violence, but overall it is a leisurely-paced and gentle fairytale of a woman who regains her sense of self-worth and confidence through the actions of an extra-mortal friend. Montenegro handles both the mousy and fierce faces of Marta with entertaining sureness, and Maria Sorte as Carlota -- though she has far less screen time -- matches her performances. Plus, as I observed in my sexist way earlier, they're both gorgeous. If you're a fan of this type of wish-fulfilling fantasy, C.E.C.P. should really fit the bill . . . even if you don't speak the language. Steve.
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