A review of “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: ****

Rating: Not rated but should be R for graphic sexuality and mature themes

Run Time: 1 hour, 53 minutes. In Romanian with English subtitles

 

 

I’m a big fan of grim realism and no one does it better than the Romanians. Think that country’s “The Death of Mr. Lazarescu” – a bleak look at one man’s disquieting journey navigating the sticky wickets of human frailty – and you get the picture.

Virtuoso director Cristian Mungiu crafts an unforgettable import, training his cameras on an enterprising university student (Anamaria Marinca as Otilia) endeavoring to help a pregnant friend (Laura Vasiliu) in her most desperate hour of need.

The Iron Curtain obscures 1980s Romania – rationing and censorship among the daily hardships -- and the girls’ journey is fraught with peril, threat lurking around every corner. From trying to procure a private hotel room without adequate papers to placating a black market abortionist (Vlad Ivanov) every minute of this painfully intimate drama is spring-loaded with apprehension.

Mungiu seems bent on stark contrasts; one woman’s vulnerability taking a backseat to another’s grace under pressure, futilely maintaining appearances with a boyfriend’s reveling parents while biting back the horror of doings behind locked doors, and the relative safety of a university dorm room versus the mean streets of Cold War Romania.

Marinca consumes the screen with a steely, ferocious will. The subtleties of her performance are both gutsy and emotionally devastating. Ivanov is suitably, and appallingly, repugnant.

The 2007 Cannes Palme d’Or winner utilizes its draconian politics to underscore the desperate determination and nerve-racking fear of stepping outside the box. Even when it could cost you your life.