When I was studying for my minor field exams while earning my Ph.D. from Loyola University Chicago, I would listen almost exclusively to traditional Irish music. I felt this was appropriate given that my minor field was Early Modern British History. Before going on, for anyone of Irish heritage, or possibly living in in Ireland, please forgive the lumping of the Emerald Isle in with those fellows across the Irish Sea. If it is any consolation, the majority of the classes I took that constituted the basis for my minor field were of the Irish variety. It all got me desiring to visit Ireland. My one trip there was not the greatest. Again, with apologies, I did not find Dublin to be all that interesting. In fairness, though, it was not under the best of conditions. It was the beginning of a long-anticipated trip with my dad, and neither of us slept on the flight. We got to our hotel early enough in the morning, and kicked off our time in Europe with a nap. What was left of the day we spent trying to see as much of the city as we could in a couple hours. I will admit the Book of Kells is cool, and neat for this practicing Catholic as it is an early version of the Bible. Anyway, I realize that I have not given the country a fair shake, and would like to return one day. In the meantime, there are movies like Leap Year (2010).
Despite everything I just said about Ireland, Leap Year begins in Boston because of course it does. Would Americans watch this if it started in Chicago, instead the most Irish city in our country, is it? I digress, already. The focus is on Anna Brady (Amy Adams). She is what is called a “stager.” This means she goes into real estate properties and spruces them up to get people interested in buying them. Romantically, her interests are directed at cardiologist Jeremy Sloane (Adam Scott). When Anna’s friend Libby (Kaitlin Olson) claims she saw Jeremy coming out of a jewelry store, Anna comes to the conclusion that her four-year long commitment to Jeremy is finally going to bring an engagement. Instead, on the heels of a fancy dinner, he offers her a nice pair of diamond earrings. Shortly thereafter, he leaves, being called into work for an emergency. The next day, he is leaving for Dublin, Ireland, for a medical conference. Now, before Anna had gone to dinner with Jeremy, she had met up with her father, Jack Brady (John Lithgow). During their tête-á-tête, Jack reminds his daughter of a special Irish tradition that had worked in their family of women being able to propose to their men on February 29th, hence the title. Boy, is she determined to get that ring. I say this because while on the flight over, turbulence forces the plane to land in Cardiff. That is Wales for you geography buffs, and not Ireland. When she cannot find any regular form of transportation to get her across the Irish Sea and her intended destination, she finds a brave fishing boat that risks towering waves. While she is able to make the crossing, she is planted on a random Irish beach and not in Dublin. Straggling into a rundown pub in a forgotten village in an out-of-the-way part of Ireland draws looks from the locals like an alien has just landed. The establishment’s proprietor, Declan O’Callaghan (Matthew Goode), is not keen on helping either, and only after she realizes she is not going to make it to Dublin that day does she accept a room for the night upstairs. He also happens to be what goes for a taxi service in the area. For the sum of €500 he agrees to drive her to the capital the next day. Their bickering has the few gathered to see them off thinking that Anna and Declan will not last long. Sure enough, it is not too far down the road, while being stopped by a heard of cows, that Declan’s ancient vehicle rolls backwards down the incline they had been on and lands in a pond. Next, Anna nearly has her Louis Vuitton luggage stolen by some passersby with whom she thinks she will be hitchhiking. Anna and Declan are able to retrieve it, but it is back to walking. Their next stop is a train station, but they miss it because they decide to explore a nearby castle. Are you sensing a pattern yet? The ancient train station manager, Frank (Tony Rohr), also happens to run a bed & breakfast, and he puts the two travelers up for the night. There is a condition, though: they must be married. So, they lie. This would have gone fine had it not been for the fact that at dinner they are asked to kiss. It goes better than Anna expects, and Declan notices sparks as well. The next morning brings more walking, and this time it hails. Taking shelter, they end up crashing a wedding. It means yet another day of not getting to Jeremy for Anna, and it is getting closer to Leap Day. Thankfully, the following morning they are able to catch a bus to Dublin. They get to the hotel where Jeremy is staying, and instead he ends up proposing to Anna and she accepts. As soon as she does, she looks up to see Declan has gone. Yet, while celebrating their engagement in their new apartment back in Boston, Anna realizes that not only does she not care for her surroundings, Jeremy’s proposal is solely motivated by his desire to get ahead in his career. It does not take her long to decide to go back to Ireland and Declan. She does so to find a much improved pub, and an eventual proposal from him.
The ring that Declan gives to Anna at the end of Leap Year is a Claddagh Ring. Like many things in Ireland, and as discussed in the movie, it is fraught with superstition. Catholicism frowns upon these kinds of beliefs because they contravene the mysterious and wonderful workings of God. It is God who determines our course, not the day of the week on which we should start a journey, or even a woman proposing to a man on February 29th. There are aspects of the movie, though, that speak to a better way of looking at God. Throughout there is a theme of not planning and accepting circumstances. This is not Anna’s away. Come what may, she is going to do as she intends by making it to Dublin despite raging seas and skies. If that is not a sign, I do not know what is. Declan’s attitude is that it will all work out, which Anna mistrusts because it is what her dad used to tell her right up until their family home was repossessed. Yet, for all the forethought she had given life, she realizes that she does not have anything that she would save from a burning building, a metaphor Declan uses to underscore how materialistic and trivial is her life. The thought is that your significant other would be the one you would look to in an emergency. Anna tests this at their engagement party by pulling the fire alarm. Besides Jeremy’s statement of his proposal being a strategy to advance at work, he rushes around grabbing all their expensive electronics before looking to her. For Christians, God takes the place of that item, or even person, though a spouse would be the person we would run to first in a similar situation. This is one of the reasons why I admire our clergy. Their spouse is God and His Church.
I was pleasantly surprised by Leap Year, even if it was pretty obvious what was going to happen between Anna and Declan as soon as they met. I am also sad to report that Matthew Goode is English and not Irish. I kept thinking there is something off about his accent while listening to it. Still, it is perfectly acceptable date night fare.