The Palm d’Or-winning toast of this year’s Cannes Film Festival, 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days is the latest Romanian import (after The Death of Mr. Lazarescu and 12:08 East to Bucharest) to arrive stateside with an established critical-darling rep. And Cristian Mungiu’s film doesn’t disappoint, charting with blunt realism and intense humanism the efforts of a young woman to procure for her friend/college dorm roommate an illegal back-door abortion in 1987 Romania. The focal point of this soberly realized tale is Otilia (Anamaria Marinca), who – when not placating her boyfriend by joining him and his family for dinner – laboriously attempts to assist Gabita (Laura Vasiuliu) by finding a hotel room for the procedure and dealing with the doctor (Vlad Ivanov) who’s agreed to perform the abortion (for an exorbitant price). 4 Months has all the stylistic hallmarks of the new Romanian cinema (neo-realism drama, a dour visual palette, sparse soundtrack music) but unlike its two most notable Romanian predecessors, there’s nothing funny about its day-in-the-miserable-life portrait, which is rife with urban-rural, young-old, and male-female tensions that all conspire to beat down the selfless, honest Otilia. Mungiu’s fascination with modes (and codes) of behavior gives his period piece a resonant universality, as attention always remains on Otilia’s moment-to-moment experience. And despite the lingering image of the unwanted fetus in question, the film, by taking Otilia’s rather than Gabita’s perspective, eventually proves itself less about abortion than about the survival of females in a world designed to subjugate them.
(2007 New York Film Festival)