It is unfortunate that film critics wrote Leap Year off as just another two star romantic comedy. Leap Year is actually a love story set in a timeless world, beautifully filmed with a deep message about the human heart. Like a crystal prism held up to the light, the film reflects the glory of another story.one that is ancient and true.
The story begins with Anna, lover of expensive shoes. She is a very worldly young woman overcoming the insecurity of her childhood by working her way to the top. Staging real estate for a living (creating false rooms for show), she and her cardiologist boyfriend are applying to a very exclusive apartment building for permission to buy an apartment. After four years of living with this man, Anna wants a marriage proposal. What she gets is an interrupted "appreciation" dinner and a pair of diamond earrings. Determined to have her way, she decides to follow the cardiologist to Dublin and make her own marriage proposal on February 29th...because it's a tradition.
Change of Course
What Anna doesn't have on her schedule and what won't work for her is the storm that causes her plane to divert from Dublin to Wales. Airport closed? No problem. She hires a boat to take her to Ireland. Yet, even this boat is forced to change course. This is a wonderful scene - like an exodus coming out of a world of bondage or a baptism into a new life. Anna arrives all alone on a distant shore of a strange new world with her high heels buried in sand! One light shines in the darkness - the local pub. A public watering hole, you might call it. Here she meets a stranger who will change her life.1
The trip from Dingle to Dublin is not about time and distance; it is all about Anna's heart. Her heart has been wounded and separated from her father, held captive by the superficial world of money and status, unloved, and used by her self-centered boyfriend. She doesn't even know she has a heart. She lives for her schedule, her control, her shoes, and getting what she wants.
God's mission is loving prodigals like Anna, so they may come home to His heart where there is music, feasting, and dancing.2 That is exactly what this journey is all about. He disconnects her from the world (a fried Blackberry), makes her totally dependent on a truth talking stranger and invites her into His world, His story and His heart. The movie isn't a romantic comedy as much as it is love story metaphor about how the lost come home to God.
Music is the invitation into a much Larger Story. The stranger hired to "get" Anna to Dublin invites her to look at one of Ireland's 10 Wonders, the ruins of an ancient castle. As they climb to the ruins, Anna tries to justify her life. The truth talking stranger nails her with, "You're a con artist" and then asks her, "What would you grab if your beautiful apartment were on fire?" A question meant to lead her into her heart. What really matters to you, Anna?
In contrast to her proposal story, he tells her a real love story and that is when the music begins. Anna and the stranger emerge from the ruins to a breathtaking view of the Irish countryside. It is a moment of beauty and holiness that Anna dispels with her arrogant remark, "You're hitting on me!". Pride goes before the fall and down she goes rolling all the way down the hill in the muck and mud. By the time she gets to the bottom her famous shoes are off.
At the Bed and Breakfast where they are spending the night, the stranger becomes the servant/chef. While Anna helps him gather food for the evening meal, she once again tries to justify her life. She has a major wound from an irresponsible father and, to her surprise, the stranger responds with heartfelt empathy and truth. The evening is beautiful Anna's staging gift is used to serve others not to make money. The dinner is like a covenant meal - an invitation to a marriage supper. With one kiss Anna moves from getting her own way to responding to love.
Nature interferes one more time when the hail stones force Anna and the stranger to seek shelter in a church. Much to their surprise, they interrupt a wedding ceremony. Invited to join the celebration, Anna hears the bride make a toast to her new husband. What she says is stunning for she takes "law" (don't steal, lie, cheat) and turns it into "love" (steal away my sorrows, lie with me all the nights, and please cheat death). In the presence of such beauty, the stranger tells Anna, "You're making the most important decision based on a ridiculous tradition." Then he invites her to dance. Like Rose dancing beneath the decks of the Titanic, Anna's heart is set free by a wild Irish fling and this time her shoes go flying off!
The stranger gets Anna to Dublin where her pompous boyfriend dismisses him as a hired driver. Anna gets her proposal, but finds out how empty it is. Back in Boston with all she ever wanted, she realizes it isn't what she needed. Pulling the fire alarm, she sees exactly what is important to Jeremy, the cardiologist, and it isn't' her.
The movie ends with a real proposal. Not the one Anna makes to Declan, which is really not a proposal, but an arrangement. No, Declan wants more. He wants the real thing - a marriage proposal based on his love for Anna.
As a metaphor for God's Large Story, the movie is a beautiful picture of how God loves and pursues a worldly bride. He woos her away from false lovers and brings her home to His heart. A great question to consider is, "Are you trying to get God to get you where you want to go (like Anne getting to Dublin) or are you responding to His invitation to hear the music, enjoy the feast, and celebrate with dancing?"
"What I'm trying to do here is get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God's giving". Matthew 6:33 The Message
- One of the great Bible images is "the meeting at the well". The well provides the site for men to meet women and often a betrothal soon follows the encounter.
- Paraphrased from Eugene Peterson.