Life in communist Romania is captured with harrowing documentary-like realism in 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days. It's the initial installment of a series "Tales from the Golden Age" set in 1987.
This gripping personal journey of two women on the verge of adulthood unfolds nearly in real time with the dilemma of an unplanned pregnancy.
Otilia (Anamaria Marinca) and Gabita (Laura Vasiliu) are getting ready for a trip from their dormitory. Otilia explains to her beau Adi (Alex Potocean) about probably not being able to show up for her mother's birthday party as evening approaches.
Director Cristian Mungiu has fashioned an absorbing script about Gabita's plan to abort her baby (as the title refers to how far she's actually along). But in the hotel where the unknowing girls check in, a doctor Bebe (Vlad Ivanov) calmly mentions that they need much more on the financial scale to get the procedure accomplished.
As in another recent Palm D'Or champ L'Enfant, the mood instantly is established with insight into troubling situations and the characters that inhabit them. A sense of time and place comes to the forefront with a profound humanistic wealth as the actors embrace the human story in a natural way.
There are extended sequences and noteworthy tracking shots that work into the off-handed emotions and vulnerabilities of Otilia and the edgy Gabita. Vasiliu makes her fragile condition as troubling as the predicament that encroaches on Gabita and the bright Otilia. Marinca effortlessly carries the proceedings in the face of deception and peril, while Ivanov is priceless as prickly patient care specialist.
More than discerning arthouse folks will find this all to be startling and filled with integrity, as the hand-held less than gliding presentation actually makes the effect more taut. The look on some of the characters before, during, or after conversation goes a long way to make this tale bracing and often stunned during underground bartering and Cold War bureaucracy.
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