(Año bisiesto) Michael Rowe / Mexico / 2010
Sex comes as grubby as you’d imagine the exhaust-chugged air in Mexico City to be in Leap Year. Deliberately setting out to make his sex scenes as unglamorous as possible director Michael Rowe succeeds in building one of the most convincing performances of the year from his lead Mónica del Carmen in his grim freshman effort.
Following last year’s Chilean film The Maid Leap Year is another Latin American number to toy with class and race alongside a standout female performance. Western audiences may have difficulties identifying the social stuff – unlike in The Maid where the setting was handily a stratified affluent household – but Mónica del Carmen’s performance is remarkable. Where Catalina Saavedra in The Maid was all burnt passive-aggression here Rowe casts his net even closer.
Mónica del Carmen plays Laura a lonely freelance journalist who spends most of her time at home counting down the days to that extra day in February with mounting abandon. A dark skinned woman, mostly we hang about in her flat as she works at home indulging in increasingly destructive behaviour for reasons which are gradually revealed. With little going on except social isolation we’re soon flying around Laura’s state of mind. Despite relatively humdrum interactions with her mother on the phone and her brother something has seriously gone wrong in Laura’s life as is revealed by the sex.
One (of the many) encounters Laura partakes in the countdown to the additional day in February demonstrates Rowe’s nihilistic vision horrifically. The latest partner follows their rutting by rolling off her and simply sitting on the edge of the bed starring for an age. After several such episodes the film has fooled audiences into a rhythm of Laura beautifying herself before a night out, followed by fumbling at the front door later on and then a burst of full-on fucking (one position) before the guys slope off. But this one’s different. All becomes clear as he gestures to Laura to be quiet before phoning his partner (!) to say that he loves her and that he’ll be leaving to come home in about five minutes. It’s shocking and hysterically funny all in one, and indicative of much of Leap Year’s dark humour.
Finally when one of the one night stands turns out to be a nice-guy director Rowe delivers the punch-line: he’s an S&M aficionado! Unfortunately for the hapless Arturo though his new partner is fully up for taking this kind of play all the way to a terminal conclusion. There-on leads an arms-race of perplexingly contradictory bouts of painful congress followed by equally tender early scenes in a new relationship.
Rowe’s film works shockingly well rolling the ball between the mundane and the explicit as the reason for Laura’s damage comes out.
22 May 2013, 22:59