Año Bisiesto (Leap Year) (Michael Rowe, 2010)
I am willing to admit right up front that some of my problems with this movie come from the fact that I'm really, really uncomfortable with some of the material presented here. When the Netflix description said main character Laura (Babel's Monica del Carmen) gets involved in a sadomasochistic relationship, I figured that was probably the Netflix blurbers' much-storied hyperbole kicking into action, and halfway through the movie, when we get to the kind of butt-smacking that causes women in porn films to exclaim "oh, YEAH!" in THAT voice, I figured my preconceptions were going to be borne out. But oh, how wrong I was, and like I said, I will admit up front that if you are more comfortable with such things, you might find less to criticize here than I did.
But note: I said "might", because the empirical problems with this movie are still there, and they are still mighty.
Plot: Laura is a journalist leading a spectacularly unfulfilling life while keeping up appearances for the folks back home. ("I'm having dinner... I just made steak", she says during a phone conversation to her mother, while scooping beans straight out of the can.) Her love life, in particular, is not giving her anything she needs-it's a series of one-night stands and masturbatory fantasies that leave her no better off than she was before they happened. Until, that is, spurred on by her younger brother (The Ruination of Men's Marco Zapata) finally getting involved in a stable relationship, she decides to go looking for one herself and gets involved with Arturo (Amores Perros' Gustavo Sánchez Parra), who quickly reveals himself to be a brutal, abusive, overly jealous cad of the sort that would have most people fleeing screaming in terror-but Laura seems perfectly fine with it.
It's impossible to watch any sexual-obsession drama from Mexico these days and not compare it to Batalla en el Cielo, Carlos Reygadas' confusing, but accomplished, debut. In short, there is no metric by which you can compare this movie to that one in which this does not fall short. Rowe's faux-cinema-verite camerawork is laughable most of the time, used more as an excuse for crappy lighting and sound more than any artistic pretension (though not to say this movie isn't painfully pretentious). The pace is nonexistent in the first half and glacial in the second, and I say this as a huge fan of such slow-film masters as Ozu, Kieslowski, and Tarr. Simply put, there's nothing here; it's a slice-of-life drama with not enough slice for the S&M fiends and not enough life for anyone else. Half a star because, despite my desperately wanting to, I did not shut it off, persevering to the bitter (and entirely unfulfilling) end. 1/2