Anna’s life is like a well-ordered BlackBerry. Every detail has its place, time and purpose. Her professional life as a stager—setting up apartments to secure their optimum sales potential—is balanced and lucrative. Her social goal to be accepted into the most exclusive apartment community in the area is happening as planned. And her romance with Jeremy, a cardiologist, is purring along perfectly.
Well … maybe not perfectly. Jeremy’s been dragging his feet about the—ahem—marriage thing. And every time he shows up with a jewelry box in his hand it ends up being silly old diamond earrings or some other such foolishness.
This kind of lame execution is not worthy of a smartphone soldier such as Anna. And, frankly, it’s getting pretty frustrating.
Then Anna’s dad reminds her of a romantic Irish tradition that a great aunt once availed herself of: Every leap year on February 29, inclined Irish women can freely ask beaus for their hand in marriage, and they’re not to be rebuffed.
It just so happens that Jeremy is attending a cardiologist’s seminar in Dublin. And it just so happens to be the latter part of February in a leap year. And it just so happens that Anna is inclined. And it just so happens that the whole thing can niche into her schedule.
But it also just so happens that a storm diverts her flight … to Wales. And after making it across the Irish Sea, the only person who can drive her to Dublin by the 29th is a scruffy barkeep (Declan) who keeps calling her an idiot.
One disaster deserves another, it seems. And soon Anna is covered in mud and cow poo. Her heart is playing tricks on her, too. Anna’s ordered life is about to take some unscheduled turns.
In characters’ choices and in some very direct lines of dialogue it’s made clear that loving commitment and marriage go hand in hand. Married owners of an Irish Bed & Breakfast, for instance, speak glowingly of their 44 years together. And their house rules demand that boarders be married if they’re to sleep in the same room. Even though Anna seems at first to want a ring on her finger as an attainment rather than a commitment, with time she realizes the lasting value of what it signifies.
Declan initially comes off as a bit gruff, but he sports solid views on relationships. When Anna tells a story of her father’s poor choices, Declan states his sorrow for her misfortune, saying, “A father is someone you should be able to rely on.” Declan’s small township of friends all rally round to help him pay off a debt.
[Spoiler Warning] Anna finally realizes that her overly structured life hasn’t been healthy. And she proposes that she and Declan not make plans together, but stay in each other’s lives. He surprises her, though, by saying that he definitely wants to make plans with her. And then he goes to one knee to propose. They marry by movie’s end.
On the plane, Anna talks with a priest sitting next to her. When a storm suddenly tosses them around, the man begins silently praying. Stone crosses are seen scattered about the grounds of an ancient castle.
Folksy superstitions voiced (that nobody really believes) include, “You shouldn’t start a journey on a Saturday” and, “It’s bad luck to have a black cat cross your path.”
Even though Declan and Anna are tempted—and must sleep in the same small bed on one occasion—they set clear boundaries for their physical contact and keep their distance.
A few couples kiss—sometimes passionately.
Anna wears tight-fitting skirts and low-cut tops, as do some other women at a party. Declan bursts into Anna’s room when she’s only dressed in a skimpy bra and panties. (She covers up after the camera gets a quick look.) Anna and Declan are shown wrapped in towels after showers at one point. Declan makes a joke about Jeremy’s “little thing.”
The high-heeled Anna takes several tumbles during her road trip. At one point, for instance, she is running down a rain-washed hillside and falls, sliding face-first into a mud bog. Declan’s car also rolls down a hillside, crashing into a stream. During a wedding reception, Anna’s shoe accidentally flies off and hits the bride in the forehead.
Declan gets into a fistfight with several guys who stole Anna’s suitcase. Anna chips in as the melee escalates, kicking one guy and throwing whiskey into another guy’s face.
As Declan and Anna burst into a church wedding during a hail storm, he blurts out “Jesus Christ” and she belatedly follows with “… is Lord!” Jesus’ name is abused one other time; God’s name is exclaimed seven or eight times. A half-dozen uses of “h‑‑‑,” a couple of “a‑‑” and one of “d‑‑n.”
A number of scenes take place in pubs or bars, where everyone has a glass of beer in their hands or at their lips. Sometimes the casual drinking turns into drunkenness. One guy in a Boston bar, for instance, downs shots and is obviously tipsy when he asks Anna to marry him. Later a pub drinker stands up and immediately falls to the floor on his face. Anna over-imbibes at one point as well: She moves to kiss Declan and throws up on his shoes.
Anna and Declan pass a bottle of wine back and forth while cooking a meal. Other folks drink wine with dinner. And partygoers drink from champagne flutes and wine glasses.
Anna and Declan lie about being married in order to stay at the Bed & Breakfast. Anna steps in a pile of cow manure for a little road humor. Thieves giggle over her underwear and put it on their heads.
Ever since Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert mixed it up back in It Happened One Night (and probably even before that), Hollywood has been concocting comedies that force two romantic opposites into a disastrous blender of mishaps for an audience’s amusement. And from the moment the pretty girl meets the roguishly handsome diamond in the rough, we know what’ll happen. They’re going to go at it like two cats in a sack. And then emotions will suddenly turn from disdain to desire in the course of an accidental stumble or an unexpected smooch.
Our enjoyment of said comedic fluff really comes down to two things: 1) Is the negative content that surrounds them subdued or brazen, and 2) Is the couple in question appealing enough to hang around with for an hour and a half? As for the former, Leap Year keeps the sexual stuff stuffed down into the bottom of Anna’s Louis Vuitton suitcase, but it dabbles a bit too much in heavy drinking and it abuses Jesus’ name.
The latter? Amy Adams and Matthew Goode fill their tried-and-true roles well, making us care about their characters, despite their obvious flaws and the silliness of their circumstances. Leap Year also insists that love—especially true and solid Irish love—equals marriage. And marriage, when carried through with all your heart, equals a long, happy life. “I had everything that I ever wanted but nothing that I really needed,” Anna concludes.
As the credits roll, we can almost believe that lasting love might have been right and truly forged in a fortnight. And we can almost convince ourselves that we haven’t seen this frothy tale two dozen times before.
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.