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. Her roommate decides to help her – and gets more than she bargained for. The story is all the more harrowing because of the film's quiet, matter-of-fact approach. At a time and place where everybody works 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 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 us 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 mostly stands as a document of life in Communist Romania or as a reminder, like Vera Drake, that while abortion is undeniably traumatic, it's still better to be safe and legal than secretly carried out in hotel rooms – it remains a potent viewing experience. The actors, for their part, are so natural that they seem like nonprofessionals, until you realize that it takes great skill to keep the energy level up through this film's many long, unbroken takes.