Movies: Leap Year * *
Not to be confused with the thoroughly ghastly Irish-set 2010 Hollywood film of the same name, Leap Year is an unsettling erotic drama set in Mexico and directed by an ex-pat Australian called Michael Rowe.
Monica del Carmen is Laura, a lonely young woman in a big city who ekes a living as a freelance journalist but has become dangerously isolated in her personal life. When her mother rings from their rural home, she invents friends and fakes happiness, but Laura has grown increasingly desperate and seems to be contemplating suicide.
She masturbates while watching a seemingly happy couple watch television in a neighbouring apartment. But if it's contentment she's after, she has a funny way of going about it. Perhaps to distract herself, Laura immerses herself in a series of casual flings. Then she meets Arturo (Gustavo Sánchez-Parra), an intense young man who shows signs of sexual sadism during their first encounter. Laura, perhaps because this treatment chimes with her self-loathing, seems to like it, and they begin a dangerous sexual dance that grows ever more extreme.
A dark, strange and relentlessly gloomy little film, Leap Year shapes up like a serious psychological drama in which the violent sex is merely illustrative and incidental. But as the ante was upped, I became less and less sure of what was being achieved or why I was watching it. What Leap Year has to say could be summed up in a brisk half-hour and, personally, I found the other 60 minutes a bit of an ordeal.