"Once we start, there's no turning back."
4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days is a Romanian film directed by Cristian Mungiu which won the Palm D'Or in the Cannes Film Festival in 2007 confirming the resurgence of the New Wave of Romanian Cinema. Other Romanian films that have been a part of this movement include 12:08 East of Bucharest, The Death of Mr. Lazarescu, and Tales from the Golden Age. I'm on the minority here when I say that I didn't enjoy this film because the film has won several important awards and has been considered a masterpiece by most critics. As much as I wanted to enjoy this film, I have to be honest and say I felt it was a dull and boring movie. I tend to enjoy these character driven dramas, but I really never felt connected with the characters here and never felt the suspense that most people felt when they watched this. There were a few enjoyable moments and some strong performances, but the plot was simple and I never was drawn into the story. Despite the great camera work and the excellent craft, I never was attracted to this film or cared for the resolution. I'm sure it depicts perfectly the era when Romania was under Ceausescu's communist regime, but having seen so many foreign films focusing on social issues I didn't think there was anything special that stood out here, but I'm probably wrong because everyone else seemed to have loved this film.
The film takes place during the final years of Ceausescu's communist regime in Rumania and it centers on a college student named Otilia (Anamaria Marinca) as she begins to make plans in order to help her roommate, Gabita (Laura Vasliu), have an abortion. We don't really find out about the abortion until 30 minutes into the film, but the trailers take away the suspense. The communist regime doesn't allow birth control nor abortion, so they have to do things quietly and secretly. Otilia arranges to book a reservation at a hotel and picks up a doctor who has offered his service, although it won't be free and it will cost them a little more than money. His name is Bebe (Vlad Ivanov) and he takes advantage of Gabita's desperation to have the abortion and her friend's willingness to help. Everything has to be done quietly in the hotel room because if they are caught they can end up in jail, but Otilia also has to deal with her boyfriend Adi (Alex Potocean) as she has promised to visit him for his mom's birthday. There are a lot of things at stake here, but Otilia is determined to help out her friend.
One of the main issues I had with the film was that I never believed the friendship between Otilia and Gabita was strong enough for her to go through such extreme measures in order to help her. They seemed pretty distant and I never understood why she was willing to help. I have my theories, but the film is purposefully ambiguous. It is slow paced and nothing really happens. I don't have an issue with this because in films like A Separation it still worked for me because I connected with the characters. Mungiu portrays the era really well and never takes sides on the pro abortion or pro life issue, rather focusing on the dangers of the oppressive regime. It is a very realistic and dark film and Marinca gives a strong performance as the lead character. The best part of the film however was the scene where Ivanov's character manipulates the girls in the hotel room. He was great in that scene. I'm disappointed that I never got to appreciate the film as much as everyone else did, but there is no denying that Mungiu directed a memorable film.