Leap Year review
|REVIEWS - MOVIES|
A hard road to love in Michael Rowe's Cannes-winning first feature...
Australian writer and director Michael Rowe’s 2010 Cannes Film Festival Camera D’Or winner for Best First Feature, Leap Year is a powerful, uncompromising sexual thriller following 29 days in the life of a lonely and disillusioned freelance business journalist.
The silent opening of the lead's solitary existence is a misleading beginning to what at first appears to be an 'inaction film'. Living alone in Mexico City, far away from family, Laura works from home and compulsively lies to family, friends and colleagues to reassure them of a fictitiously busy and happy lifestyle. In her imagined reality she has a lively social network that jars with what viewers are privy to – a life confined to her flat, living off microwave meals and sad acts of masturbation while watching her neighbours' mundane loving existence, interspersed with the occasional outing to find a sexual partner.
Crossing off the days leading up to a mysterious red-squared February 29, Laura goes through a series of anonymous sexual partners before meeting Arturo and forming the beginnings of a strange addictive relationship. Arturo initially shocks Laura by spanking her, but as spanking turns to domination, belt thrashings, burns and beatings, an unsaid emotional bond is forged between these two misunderstood souls. As a sexual adrenaline-junkie seeking to push each sexual encounter to the limit, can Arturo fulfil Laura’s desire for the ultimate extreme?
Powerfully played by two exceedingly talented leads, Laura and Arturo are both interesting and secretive characters who’ve experienced their own traumas and are desperately in need of love and friendship. Before Arturo, Laura is uninterested in even the names of her one-night stands, but upon meeting him starts to reveal her shocking sexual history - and dreams of one day having a son called Ariel.
"Michael Rowe not only strips down the human body but also the act of intercourse itself, removing any sense of eroticism or romance, revealing Laura and Arturo’s urges for what they are – primal desperate needs to feel something"
A film of two halves, Leap Year’s slow start perfectly complements its shocking conclusion and helps to shed light on Laura’s miserable and dreary existence and later motivations. The lack of background music helps to reinforce the loneliness of the central characters and magnifies the heavy breathing, sucking and slurping noises made during animalistic sex scenes. Michael Rowe not only strips down the human body but also the act of intercourse itself, removing any sense of eroticism or romance, revealing Laura and Arturo’s urges for what they are – primal desperate needs to feel something.
Leap Year is wrought with tension in the power games Laura and Arturo play, manipulating each other. Revolting, moving and distressing, Rowe’s minimalist debut is a spellbinding exploration of urban alienation.
Writer/Director: Michael Rowe
Studio: Axiom Films
Running Time: 92 mins
Release Date: November 26, 2010
Starring: Monica Del Carmen, Gustavo Sanchez Parra
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