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Worth A Look: 20.83%
Average: 0%
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Total Crap: 4.17%

2 reviews, 12 user ratings

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4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days
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by Jay Seaver

"Starkly, matter-of-factly intense."
5 stars

"4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days" manages something tricky: It handles its touchy subject matter in a way that is dispassionate but not cold. It likely won't make very many people change their opinions on abortion; I'm not even sure whether it would tend to push someone toward moderation or extremism. What's interesting about the film is less the activity at its center than the way filmmaker Christian Mungiu tells his story and what can be deduced about its participants.

Though Gabita (Laura Vasiliu) is the university student looking to terminate her pregnancy, we mainly follow Otilia (Anamaria Marinca), the friend and roommate who seems to be handling the arrangements. As the film opens, we see her making the rounds of their dorm, borrowing money and collecting items from the thriving black market . Then it's downtown to book the hotel room - no easy trick in 1980s Romania - and meet Domnu' Bebe (Vlad Ivanov), the "doctor", who seizes on the unusual way Otilia and Gabita are handling things to demand more and different payment. Meanwhile, Otilia is trying to keep a dinner date with her boyfriend Adi (Alexandru Potocean) at his mother's birthday party.

What makes 4 Weeks extraordinary is how Mungiu does such a good job giving each moment of his film equal weight. There are no music cues used to tell the audience that something is important, and the cinematography consists almost entirely of extended medium shots of Otilia; we follow her closely but don't zoom in to examine her face at specific moments. Indeed, the only time we spend much time away from her is during a scene that we might weight too heavily if we had a front-row seat. Whatever the filmmaker thinks about what's going on, he's taking great care not to impress that on the audience. He and we are just observing.

Just because he's not using a lot of cinematic tricks to highlight the drama doesn't mean that the film proceeds from start to finish with a completely level tone. It is, in its matter-of-fact way, one of the most tension-filled movies in recent memory; we're reminded early on that abortion is illegal and punished harshly in this time and place (thus the need for it to take place in a hotel room, rather than a hospital or clinic). Mungiu finds several different ways to make the audience nervous. There's the meeting between Otilia, Gabita, and Domnu' where each knows they have the ability to ruin the other, though Domnu' quickly grabs the upper hand; there's the Otilia walking around the city at night, where the audience can't help but think what a disaster it would be to get caught; there's Otilia trapped at Adi's dinner table while a phone nobody answers rings, perhaps with news from Gabita. That scene in particular is fantastic in how it tortures the audience with seemingly benign activity.

That's also the scene where we really get the full measure of what a fine performance Anamaria Marinca is turning in. We've already seen Otilia get serious after being introduced to her as cheerful and seemingly casual about things; in this scene, we see her trying to put up a cheerful, polite front even though she's clearly worried about Gabita. It's also where we learn about her, though, saying she's from the country and studying "tech" in part because she doesn't particularly want to stay there, so on top of everything else we see her getting uncomfortable at the somewhat condescending attitude Adi's educated, prosperous family has. The way the movie is shot doesn't give Marinca any place to be other than excellent, but she handles the challenge with aplomb.

Laura Vasiliu's role is smaller, though central, and her performance is interesting too. Gabita is timid, deferring to Otilia, and we're inclined to feel sorry for her; after all, she's in a rough position with no easy way out that she doesn't seem equipped to handle. Vasilu remembers that helpless isn't always cute, though, and there are times we feel as though Gabita is abusing the privilege of having a friend as good as Otilia - the weak half of the relationship controlling the strong one. Other times she seems justifiably bitter and angry at Otilia.

It's not a perfect friendship, but it's not the one-sided one it may seem like; Otilia needs someone to trust her nearly as much as Gabita needs someone to lean on. In the end, that's what this movie is really about - not abortion or communism, but the universal need for someone to help you through them.

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originally posted: 02/23/08 11:56:26
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 Toronto International Film Festival For more in the 2007 Toronto International Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 Chicago International Film Festival For more in the 2007 Chicago International Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 Vancouver International Film Festival For more in the 2007 Vancouver International Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

11/26/15 David H. One of the most gripping and riveting films I've ever seen. 5 stars
1/05/15 thomas crap 1 stars
10/20/10 Benchwarmer One of the most important films of the last decade! 5 stars
6/03/10 User Name The exact oppisite of an abortion. 5 stars
5/15/09 mani not a movie,its a slice of acting,its performance.and no direction,its observation 5 stars
3/24/09 lalaland a really good movie...but overrated imo 4 stars
1/11/09 Anonymous. interesting, i never knew abortion was outlawed at one time in romania... 4 stars
9/06/08 Rada Sarbu I'm so proud of this movie. But not of the subject. Romania isn't like that anymore. 4 stars
9/05/08 pHylum Learned much about 1980's Romania. Film opens very skillfully. 4 stars
6/13/08 jcjs33 astounding, subtle yet beyong dynamic, fresh, bold, real, simple, oh so human 5 stars
3/03/08 Nicholas Plowman Fiercly honest, yet another film about abortion, but this one is the best 5 stars
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  DVD: 14-Oct-2008


  DVD: 14-Oct-2008

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