Mexico City journalist Laura (Monica del Carmen) delves into her inner pain through promiscuity and violent sex, in Michael Rowe's arresting debut feature. Leap Year won the Camera d'Or at last year's Cannes Film Festival from a jury headed by hot talent Gael Garcia Bernal. A tough psychological drama, it may stretch some audience sensibilities, while its explicit sexual content may prove a draw in some quarters and help the film reach a wider audience.
Laura spends most of her days spying on her neighbors whom she assumes lead preferable lives. She still grieves for her father, who passed some four years previously. Perhaps it's for consolation that she picks up strange men and brings them home for unbridled sexual encounters, but her motivations are never spelled out for us. Her brother appears to be her one true friend, and occasionally visits to confide in her.
Laura lies to her family about her great social life, and even invents friends. She meticulously crosses off each day on her calendar, working her way toward February 29th.
When she becomes involved with the sadistic Arturo (Gustavo Sánchez Parra) a struggle for dominance and territory ensues, and Laura finally sees a way of putting an end to her misery. Their encounters involve sadomasochism, which makes for occasionally harrowing viewing. Arturo initially begins with a few slaps but immediately graduates to asphyxiation, belt-strapping and more. Laura has no qualms about any of this but, for reasons that will emerge, she wants Arturo to go even further.
Despite the bleakness of tone, minimalism and a sense of "urban alienation," there are moments of humor and sensitivity that alleviate the more sensational aspects of Leap Year. Rowe has to be congratulated on the way he's marshaled his themes and inspired committed performances from his two leads. Though it's graphically sexual, there is nothing erotic or gratuitous about any of it, so he should not incur the wrath of the denizens of political correctness.
Distributor: Strand Releasing
Cast: Monica Del Carmen, Gustavo Sánchez Parra, Marco Zapata
Director: Michael Rowe
Screenwriters: Michael Rowe, Lucia Carreras
Producers: Edher Campos, Luis Salinas
Genre: Drama; Spanish-language, subtitled
Running time: 92 min.
Release date: June 24 NY