Comparison: I Know Where I'm Going vs Leap Year
One of my favourite rom-coms of recent years is Leap Year. Don't judge me. Starring Amy Adams and an Irish-accented Matthew Goode, this is the story of an uptight city girl, foiled in her plan to propose to her boyfriend on Feb 29th when she's stranded in rural Ireland. I know it's not the best piece of cinema ever made, but the golden age of the romantic comedy is long dead, and despite it's cliches and relentless Irish stereotyping, Leap Year was at least a) romantic and b) funny. Mostly unintentionally, it's true, but at least there were no ten minute conversations about Elvis's bowel movements (I'm looking at you What If. And you had so much potential.)
Leap Year, I think, is likeable because it's kind of old-fashioned. It's not trying to subvert the romantic comedy genre, or be edgy or anything. The humour's pretty simple, the characters bicker like they're in a screwball comedy and the actual romance is all pretty chaste for a modern-day film. It wasn't until recently that I realised just why this might be - it's not a modern film. It's a re-make of an old film. Not officially, as far as I know, but if it's not some kind of homage to I Know Where I'm Going then it's pretty much a straight lift. And I'd never have discovered the similarities, if I Know Where I'm Going wasn't my mum's favourite film.
I Know Where I'm Going is a 1945 British film starring Wendy Hiller and Roger Livesy. Hiller is an ambitious, middle-class woman who has set her mind on marrying a wealthy industrialist. She travels to the Scottish Isle of Mull for the wedding, where she is trapped by bad weather and ends up falling for a local man. So far, so similar, but not any closer in plot than a lot of films. It's a pretty well used trope: ambitious girl meets cash-poor man who shows her more about life than her rich but soulless boyfriend ever could. And maybe both the heroes are from Celtic nations, but it's different right? Because one's Scottish and one's Irish. Yet the more you think about it, the more the similarities become obvious.
I Know Where I'm Going begins when our heroine meets her Dad for a meal to tell him she's getting engaged. In Leap Year, Amy Adams meets her dad in a bar to tell him she thinks she's getting engaged. He tells her about the Irish tradition where women can propose to men on 'Leap day' (since when has that been an Irish tradition? I thought everyone knew about that?) and when her boyfriend doesn't actually propose, she gets on a plane to Dublin (where he has traveled for a work trip) to go ask him instead. In I Know Where I'm Going Wendy Hiller sets off to meet her fiance on Kiloran (a small Scottish Island) but because of bad weather is stranded in the Isle of Mull. Amy Adams' plane is disrupted by bad weather, and she ends up in Dingle, instead of Dublin.
In Leap Year Amy Adams winds up in a dive-y B&B with some eccentric characters. She bumps into the gorgeous Declan (Matthew Goode) who runs the place and says he will take her to Dublin for a fee. In I Know Where I'm Going, Joan (Hiller) shelters at a local house with some eccentric characters, and meets Torquil, a navy man who is also waiting to cross to Kiloran.
In both films, Anna (Amy Adams) and Joan begin to fall for their Celtic companions and embrace their more romantic world view - i.e people and traditions and earthiness, rather than money and superficial comfort and the big city way of life. In both films the girls get schooled in the cultures and traditions of Ireland/Kiloran, and begin to realise that their oblivious, city-boy partners will never really understand. In both films the couples fall deeper for each other at a dance (in Leap Year they crash a wedding) and take romantic walks up to an old castle where the guys regale us with the castles' legends.
They're not exactly the same story. They're not. But you couldn't say there weren't a lot of similarities. And it confuses me that the makers of Leap Year never referred in interviews, etc., to the film that must have been their inspiration. Because Leap Year doesn't feel like a rip off - it feels like they're purposely referencing I Know Where I'm Going - to me at least. The old film isn't very famous, but it's not obscure enough that no-one will know it's been copied. Is it? Lots of people love it.
My mum would argue that out of the two, I Know Where I'm Going is a much better film. She's biased, but technically, I'd probably agree - although I can't pretend that black-and-white and cheesy background music isn't off putting to me. Plus, Roger Livesy doesn't exactly look like Matthew Goode. But I Know Where I'm Going does have that special something. Although the spark between the leads is definitely there in Leap Year (that kiss...) I do think the chemistry in I Know Where I'm Going is pretty stand-out. Plus the cinematography is great, blah blah. It's not a comedy like Leap Year and I can't really put my finger on why it's a good film, but it is. My mum says it's got 'charm.' Maybe that's it.
For people who love traditional, light-hearted romance, I'd recommend both Leap Year (cheesy romantic comedy) and I Know Where I'm Going (classic romantic drama). I'll always have a soft spot for Leap year, but even I can admit that it's basically a rip off. But who cares - we definitely need more rom-coms nowadays.
Have you seen either of these films? Ever noticed the similarities?