Very rarely have I ever come out of a film not sure how to either express my view on it or review it. It’s not even that it’s any way negative towards the film makers, it’s just I’m not sure to what degree I recommend people to see it. It kind of links in with the recurring theme of me as a reviewer getting out of my comfort zone and seeing things that I would usually pass up due to whatever other things come before it.
Michael Rowe’s debut film Leap Year has already built itself a good reputation on the Festival circuit, winning the prestigious Camera D’Or award given to the best debuting director. He’s also up for the Sutherland Award given to recognise the best direction of the festival at the London Film Festival awards ceremony at the end of this month. But this isn’t some kind of miniature hype machine being built for the Australian born director and Leap Year demonstrates that along with the realistic writing shown in the co written script.
The basic thing you need to know is that it is a very raw and honest character study of Laura Lopez, a freelance Journalist who lives a very isolated life in her small apartment rarely venturing out besides getting men home from nightclubs and never going beyond one night in bed. Her brother Raúl is the only person from her family who visits and spends time with her whilst she only able to make up stories to her mother about the life she seemingly would rather lead. Eventually, she finds a guy who seems to take an interest in her in the form of Arturo and she begins to get in a relationship that makes more sense in the context of those involved rather than our fly on the wall perspective.
The key words in that sentence are ‘raw’ and ‘honest’. You see Laura do what she does in her everyday life to the extent that it tries to submerge you and makes things as acceptable to be filmed that other mainstream movies would not do. For someone who hasn’t seen enough of these kinds of movies in a fuller context, it was something I was not used to but it was weird how quickly I was able to adapt to it. My concern would be if people saw some of the images some that would defiantly be seen as something private or in parts pornographic, and not see it for the context it is being presented in and treat it as shock value. Personally, it couldn’t be further from the truth and I respect Rowe’s direction for making it work.
Mónica Del Carmen is an actress who some might remember from the Oscar winning Babel with Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett but she comes into her own playing Laura and so very willing to take risks that make her both the bravest person on set and someone who is willing to do anything for the art form. In some ways, it makes the whole thing seem more real in the context of the story and also makes the whole thing seem more disturbing in what she takes for the sake of the relationship. Gustavo Sánchez Parra, who plays Auturo, plays his role with a great blend of sinister and caring characteristics that make you not quite understand to start off why the two are together but, again, the context really makes thing clearer and makes the ending have all the more impact.
The other star of the movie, believe it or not, is the cinematography. Outside of one scene, you are pretty much in Laura’s apartment the entire time and whilst it would have been easy to have one default camera angle for each room, it allows enough variety for the audience to know her living accommodations. Every room is shown in a different light when it is shown in the next scene it’s in and it really helps add the feeling of depth to the room being its own character as well as Laura, Raúl and Auturo.
I think my only real problem with it is that it is so raw and so brutal in how it depicts certain aspects that have to be taken on board before you see it. The problem, more speaking, is whether people will see it or be put off by what happens on screen that they aren’t able to appreciate that this can even be a common thing that happens in everyday life outside of a couple of things. In certain aspects, it makes you think about how people see violence in relation to sexual intercourse and what is justified in terms of what people are attracted to, especially in an age where so many fetishes are catered to on the internet, some more violent than others.
Leap Year is, by definition, what most people think when someone says it’s a ‘festival movie’ and one that will not be easy to stomach for most mainstream audiences but it is a movie that deserves the recognition it is receiving and it will be exciting to see how not just the buzz for this movie and its director goes but also what Rowe will do next. If you are a film student right now and want to know a good way to make a memorable first impression, Leap Year is a film you defiantly need to see.
Leap Year is being screened on the 16th and 17th of October and can be booked here. The film comes out in the UK 26th of November.