4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days

This chilling drama, set in 1987 Romania (before the fall of the Iron Curtain and Ceausescu), concerns a college student seeking a then-illegal abortion and her roommate who decides to help her and gets more than she bargained for, is all the more harrowing because of its quiet, matter-of-fact approach. At a time and place where everybody works only for bribes and nobody trusts each other, 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (apparently referring to the amount of time the girl has been pregnant, though this isn't explicitly stated in the film), creates such an air of paranoia that it literally becomes a sort of thriller. (Even the countdown-like title suggests suspense.) You just know something bad is going to happen, though writer-director Mungiu subtly surprises throughout with what really does go wrong and what doesn't.

It's safe to say that this is absolutely not a "date movie", and will likely make many, many women (and perhaps some men) feel extremely uncomfortable. But even if it finally stands only as a document of life in Romania under Communist rule (though authority figures are almost entirely absent from the story), or as a reminder - as Vera Drake reminded us - that, while abortion is undeniably traumatic, it's still better to have it safe and legal than secretly carried out in anonymous hotel rooms - it remains a potent viewing experience. The actors, for their part, are so natural that they seem like non-professionals, until you realize that it takes great skill to keep the energy level up through this film's many long, unbroken takes.