4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (2007) (Not Rated)
This review contains SPOILERS!
It's Romania and it's 1987 and the women here are very sullen. In fact, everyone in "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days" is very morose. I don't think that there is a lively scene in the entire movie—that is, unless you count a dinner scene that rises up and drowns the viewer in a deluge of uncomfortableness. But the point of "4 Months" is not to be funny and entertaining—rather to show a period in time and to portray the horrors that one friend will go through for the other.
There are two roommates—Otilia (Anamaria Marinca) and Gabita (Laura Vasiliu)—and they couldn't be more different. Otilia is in control of herself, always aware of what's going on and just smarter in general. Gabita is clueless, forgetful, emotional, and immature in every way. She is also very selfish—I would argue that if anyone was the antagonist in "4 Months" it would be Gabita.
Otilia, on the other hand, is the character on which the movie focuses.
Because of the regime under which Romania lives, abortion is illegal and punishable with several years in prison. Naturally, Gabita wants an abortion (we are never really told why, and it's subject to multiple viewpoints) and Otilia has volunteered to help out.
From the first moment that the film opens Cristian Mungiu, the director, makes it clear that this is an unflinching movie. It has no soundtrack and features long pauses when silence overtakes the screen. The lack in dialogue is very reminiscent to "No Country for Old Men", but in this movie's case, the silence is serving a different purpose. With each pause in dialogue, we sink deeper and deeper into the despair that the characters are feeling.
The other comparison that came to mind was Steve McQueen's "Hunger" because of the camera work itself. There are incredibly long shots with no cuts that view the characters in an unblinking way. I felt sorry for the actresses, mainly Marinca, because of how they had to be perfect for such a long period of time.
The film takes up one whole day and Mungiu shoots the movie in a somewhat "real time" fashion. Some liberties had to be taken, the film starts in the late morning and ends in the evening, but there are no fade-outs to later days—again, very steady with the camera.
When the film opens, Gabita and Otilia are getting ready for the day. For the first half-hour of the movie, we see Otilia run around and try to buy cigarettes—she walks down the hallway and talks to some of the girls, one guy flirts with her a little, she gets some tic-tacs, she pets a kitty, she gets powdered milk, and she tries on a little makeup.
To say that the film wanders a bit before plunging into the deep, morbid topic of abortion is an understatement. That being said, I realize why the film does this: again, it's trying to convey real time. Surely all the characters aren't going to be constantly talking about the act and what ramifications there might be...though that conversation does happen eventually.
Otilia has to get everything ready, because Gabita doesn't feel like it. Keep in mind that Gabita has made all the arrangements, but one thing becomes clear to the audience—hotels in Romania are really strict. There is so much stress surrounding getting a room and all because Gabita didn't feel like going out and doing it herself.
Eventually the hotel room is procured and the man who will supervise and administer the procedure is there...getting him there is another story altogether. He is simply known as Mr. Bebe (Vlad Ivanov) and he is a frustratingly complex character...so much so that it feels like the writers didn't take enough time in writing his lines. Half of the time he is a complete saint and then (in a rather bipolar explosion) he turns into a complete and utter slime-ball (figuratively, that is).
"4 Months" is a movie that does make you hold your breath, not out of suspense or fright, but out of stress. You feel for Otilia and you do come to despise Gabita.
My problem with the movie is its innate moodiness. It tries so desperately to convey a natural and human reality that it ends in overkill. Not one character has a single breakdown, though by all the circumstances surrounding them, they should. There is so much emotion pent up that it becomes a giant implosion of the screen and it actually destroys the impact the film could have had.
"4 Months" cannot decide what its point is—it could be political, it definitely is feminist, and it possibly has nothing to do with abortion.
There are several unnecessary scenes that do nothing but stretch emotions and try the viewer's patience. In theory, they show a contrast and a facade...in reality, they're annoying and pointless.
It's attractive to look at and I applaud and commend what the film was trying to do—regrettably, I think they tried too hard.
Score: 2 and a half stars out of 4
Posted by Micah Jones