review for 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days on AllMovie

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (2007)
by Michael Buening review

Cristian Mungiu's 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days progresses with the same grim determination as its protagonist Otilia (Anamaria Marinca) does through Bucharest in the late '80s. The story mimics a thriller, following her over the course of a day as she guides her college roommate, Gabita (Laura Vasiliu), through a backroom abortion -- securing the hotel room, meeting the "doctor," and purchasing the cigarettes and goods to be used as bribes. Marinca's remarkable performance is relaxed and natural, gradually revealing Otilia's drive and vulnerability. Mungiu and DP Oleg Mutu use the same real-time documentary-like techniques as in The Death of Mr. Lazarescu (also shot by Mutu) and the Dardenne brothers. The imagery is plunged in half-light due to the rotting Romanian infrastructure, echoing the protagonists' descent into darkness.

We are watching this movie from a privileged vantage point. We know the dictator Ceausescu will fall and that this decrepit era will come to a close. Soviet art from this late period typically depicts numbed and thoroughly corrupt culture from the Politburo to the black markets. Otilia works the system while being a victim of it. But she is also a survivor, savvy and self-aware. She is the hope for the future and the greatest suspense comes from wondering whether she will be crushed beforehand by a society that has abandoned all responsibility for itself. 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days was featured in the 45th New York Film Festival and won the Palme d'Or at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival.