4 Months, 3 Weeks And 2 Days
Review by Jack Foley
CRISTIAN Mungiu’s harrowing but deeply impressive Romanian abortion drama won the coveted Palme d’Or at Cannes last year  and has been picking up accolades ever since. It’s easy to see why.
The film offers an intense insight into a dark European corner that’s more terrifying than a dozen Hollywood horror movies by virtue of the fact it’s so real.
It’s Romania, 1987, during the rule of Nicolae Ceausescu, and good-natured Otilia (Anamaria Marinca) decides to assist her irresponsible roommate Gabita (Laura Vasiliu) in getting an illegal abortion.
Otilia is confident and streetwise and takes Gabita under her wing, borrowing money from her own boyfriend to part-fund the termination, and then meeting back-street abortionist Mr Bebe (Vlad Ivanov) and guiding him back to the hotel room they have booked to carry out the procedure.
But once there, things become complicated. Gabita proves an unreliable patient and Mr Bebe takes advantage, eventually forcing Otilia to make a terrible sacrifice in order to see things through.
Mungiu employs a stark and non-sensationalist approach, with each scene consisting of one continuous take to lend it a documentary-style feel.
As a result, the tension is allowed to build on its own merits and often feels unbearable at times (particularly in the aftermath of the abortion). Mangiu, for his part, never allows the audience chance to rest, placing them in a harsh environment from which there is no escape (much like his central protagonists). The sense of desperation is palpable.
Performance-wise, the film also excels with both Anamaria Marinca and Laura Vasiliu providing a formidable central presence. Marinca, especially, portrays Otilia’s journey from confidence to quiet despair with breathtaking brilliance in a performance that’s deservedly already won several awards.
The backdrop of late ’80s Romania is also very depressing, offering an insight into a squalid, cash-strapped era that was particularly hard on women.
4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days may not provide the most comfortable of viewing and retains a grim intensity throughout but it remains essential viewing and looks certain to become one of the best foreign language movies of the year.
In Romanian, with subtitles
Running time: 1hr 53mins
UK DVD Release Date: May 26, 2008