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4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days
Genre Drama
Year: 2007

4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days is a harrowing drama from Romania that deals with illegal abortions and their consequences. Cristian Mungiu, writer-director of 4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days, composes a film with a stark reality that shocks, awes and implodes. This isn’t to say that his movie is explicit, but it’s his use of the sublime… what’s going on off-camera. Any film that deals with the controversial issue of abortion is going to have an edge, and 4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days divides opinion like a double-edged sword. On the one hand, Mungiu is warning young women about the dangers of having an abortion, and the mitigating circumstances make the whole procedure difficult to judge. This is a controversial film for its against-the-grain take within Romania, but its raw power is in the projected consequences for all parties involved. The story follows two young roommates, who hire an abortionist on the recommendation of a friend. Their careless planning results in a strained situation regarding compensation and secrecy, as one roommate elects to abort her unborn foetus, while the other tries her best to assist her friend and maintain composure under pressure.

Mungiu’s film is constructed in such a way that the audience fills the shoes of Otilia, played by Annamaria Marinca. Her selfless sacrifice of time, integrity and reputation goes beyond the boundaries of friendship. She helps her pregnant roommate Gabriela, played by Laura Vesiliu, from setting up the meeting and booking the hotel room, to making payment and getting rid of the evidence. Everything is done in such secrecy that 4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days seems like a taut thriller at times. The suspense is terrible as you’re waiting for the worst to happen. Each scene is treated quite liberally in terms of shot length. Mungiu realises that more tension can be derived from keeping a fixed shot, and a sense of realism and being there is established. The “being there” factor makes the events seem much closer to home, despite the subtitles, and one is roped into the film as each dilemma heightens the tension.

The performances are played down to make the experience as real as possible. Mungiu’s choice to leave the worst situations to our imaginations makes the drama even more taut. The story’s kept riveting by making the events seem like they’re happening in real-time, and the illegal, hapless nature of the “transaction” make the film gripping. This is a film that may offend sensitive viewers, but it’s shock value is justified in trying to construct a platform for serious discussion. This is the kind of movie that should be screened to teenage girls about the implications of unplanned pregnancies. A “get-out-of-jail” card does not exist when it comes to abortion and the consequences are long term. 4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days is not a pleasant film to watch, but it’s importance is far-reaching. Mungiu’s account is taken from real stories and has a docudrama feel that makes the characters as real as a second cousin or old friend. Mungiu’s message is that there’s never a happy ending when it comes to abortion.

The bottom line: Realistic.

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