Romanian Palme d’Or winner lacks heart

4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days

on December 17, 2007 by Shlomo Schwartzberg

In the waning days of the oppressive Ceausescu regime, flighty young Gabita (Laura Vasiliu) is desperate to obtain an abortion, a capital crime in Romania. As she and Otilia (Anamaria Marinca), her more savvy and supportive friend, prepare to meet the man (Vlad Ivanov) who is going to arrange the procedure, a portrait of a paranoid, secretive, and intolerant society emerges.

A realistically etched and perfectly pitched drama, the Cannes award-winning 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days, which refers to how far along Gabita is, rings entirely true in its every regard. It’s also completely artless, leaving one unmoved by the seriousness of the young women’s plight, even when awful things are happening to them.

There’s none of the richness here of The Lives of Others, the other recent portrait of an Eastern European dictatorship on its last legs and the individuals trying to survive day-to-day there. Nor does the film ever attain the emotional power of Vera Drake, which also turned an unblinking eye on the vagaries of people trying to procure abortions. This Romanian drama suffers from a flaw common to many European films: too much intellect, not enough heart.

Distributor: IFC First Take
Cast: Anamaria Marinca, Vlad Ivanov, Laura Vasiliu and Alexandru Potocean
Director/Screenwriter: Cristian Mungiu
Producer: Oleg Mutu and Cristian Mungiu
Genre: Drama; Romanian-language, subtitlted
Rating: Unrated
Running time: 113 min.
Release date: January 25, 2008
Reviewed: 2007 Toronto International Film Festival

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