Laura is a single journalist living and working in Mexican City for “Your Business” magazine. Correction, lives should really be replaced with exists. Her one bedroom apartment is her home, prison and universe combined. Butterflying those age-old metaphors for transformation, escape and beauty adorn the walls and mirrors, fakes poised to take off destined to go nowhere fast.
By day, she gazes from her window forlorn at the sight of an elderly couple and envies their love and companionship. By night she masturbates while sneaking a look at the young couple in the opposite apartment and envies their fire and passion. By the early hours she has casual sex with a variety of scumbags and is left alone wondering what if what she envies is worth anything at all?
Laura listens to her brother’s relationship problems and writes her articles. Her research is done via the Internet and her interviews by phone. She has no work mates, her editor is just a voice and she is just another disconnected soul surrounded by a city that has 20 million of them.
Enter Arturo, the body of a Mexican fighter, is a great lover, caring, interested, kinky. A slight slap from him comes first, a dig later, a belt across the buttocks next. Does Arturo push the sadomasochistic relationship further or is it Laura calling it on? Who concocts the more alarming scenarios is never fully revealed. During their tender moments does Arturo delve into Laura’s personal life because he genuinely cares or further weakens her for more humiliating sexual acts?
On the flip side, does Laura have a hidden agenda? Is she using Arturo for a darker purpose? What connection can we make between the death of her father and the fact she lost her virginity at 12? Are we just working out that old tabloid equation in our heads and coming up with the standard answer of child abuse? Perhaps she’s just depressed that her dad is dead and nothing more.
“Leap Year” is a bare bones study of urban solitude. Director Michael Rowe’s static camera and minimal milieu combine superbly to create Laura’s crippling isolation in a city teaming with millions of people. The two leads are undeniably powerful but does being urinated on equate to a good performance just because the actress is committed to the director’s dubious vision? Is the controversial subject matter really that controversial? Or is it all slightly tedious and pretentious, pornography dressed up as art house?