This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Robert (on hiatus)’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
Romania in the late 80s presents itself with very interesting topics. Having been beleaguered by communism for twenty-something years, those last few knockings of Ceaușescu's mandate were very stern to the population. Indeed, everyone who's lived back then will tell you about the wages and how everyone was obliged to contribute with their work-force, thus resulting in a low percentage of the population being out of work, but I digress. There are lots to talk about here, as what Mungiu's craft does, is put on film how dire the situation was. Do bear in mind that this is a singular case. 20th century Romania is a treasure trove for propping up a movie plot. From our arguably greatest poet being seemingly poisoned, to having the army kill over a hundred thousand Jews in the second World War, the country siding with the Allies and then with the Axis in that very period, and ultimately, to our last communist president and his wife being executed on Christmas Day with their backs to the wall -- Romania is somewhat of a forgotten country in the global climate, but the history is there and is indelible.
Onto Mungiu's work, it's a very bristling tension there. The film is slow, yet so alert. It wants to expedite what it has to say, and it has plenty to spout towards you. It's that latent, heart-throbbing feeling of knowing that something important is to happen to you, but not exactly being able to comprehend how it's going to turn out or how to approach it. Cristian Mungiu won't belabour you with trifles or drive the plot into no man's land with needless exposition or anything of that kind. What this is, is simplistic storytelling. The kind that relies on emotion and the spontaneous element to tell its tale. Mungiu walks a tightrope with 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days; as what you have here is a very sensitive and personal matter. Slant more towards the sensitive one? You're in melodrama territory. What about heightening personal issues? You'd be well into the mire of hokey dramas.
There are sequences in 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days where it simply doesn't feel like a film. The acting is so upright and so potent you'd doubt it is acting. It's a real-life tale Mungiu tells, and the way he connects dynamic camera movement with the trickles of dialogue works so well -- especially in the scene that predates the abortion. There's this honesty that's so well presented in the dialogue that makes this all the better. From the very moment the designated abortion helper comes into play the film's ecosystem goes into overdrive. It's also interesting how Mungiu does decide to show the abortion aright, notwithstanding its gross nature. Just when you think he'd employ the Polanski technique of not showing the atrocity, he somehow eludes you. And that fourth wall breaking in the last frame of the film? Fantastic.
Also an entry in my favourite film stills list.