4 Months 3 Weeks and 2 Days
Is this one of them M.C. Escher rooms? I’m dizzy.

Theatrical Release Date: 06/01/2007 (Romania), 01/23/2008 (USA)
Director: Cristian Mungiu
Cast: Anamaria Marinca, Laura Vasiliu

525,600 minutes! 525,000 moments so dear! Wait … that’s not right. Now playing in limited release, “4 Months 3 Weeks and 2 Days” (or 208,800 minutes depending on which months) is not a look at AIDS and homelessness in Alphabet City – it’s a stark look at what lengths a woman and her roommate will go to in search of an illegal abortion in Communist-era Romania.

For those of you who graduated high school in the new millennium, you may not remember the Iron Curtain or the oppressive regimes of Eastern Europe. Think of that militant R.A. that enforced the dry campus rule in college. And then think what it would be like if that guy (or girl) was elected President and there was no constitution or system of checks and balances … unless you count the secret police who check in on you and balance your liberties.

As fun as that sounds, it’s even less fun for the people who lived it. In the film, university student Gabita (Laura Vasiliu) has decided to get an abortion. She enlists the help of her roommate Otilia (Anamaria Marinca), as arranging the procedure in the face of severe legal punishment, let alone medical issues, can be complicated.

They secure the services of Domnu’ Bebe (Vlad Ivanov), a recommended abortionist. The price he requires though is more than some hard earned cash and this begins the tense last half of the film that will leave a mark that the slow and methodical first half didn’t quite let on about.

While there’s no overt violence, let’s just start with the unsettling thoughts about how coerced sex is every bit as emotionally charged and damaging as forced sex. Because nothing is gratuitously shown on-screen, this left me even more unprepared for the follow through, wherein the aborted fetus is shown on screen.

I say this not to spoil some of the plot elements (there is more to the film), and I consciously didn’t warn you with some big SPOILER disclaimer. I could just expect everyone to understand that with plot elements concerning abortion, there’s a good chance at some graphic imagery.

However, whereas “Juno” goes the more socially acceptable adoption route and abstains from showing the grim reality involved with abortion, writer/director Cristian Mungiu doesn’t pull this punch. There are plenty of things I’m willing to let an audience discover for themselves but this could very well be a deal-breaker for many people and so, consider this plot point spoiled.

However, if you feel capable of dealing with these issues, and are a fan of foreign cinema (a la, you can read subtitles or speak Romanian), I highly recommend the film. I will readily admit that I had issues with the slow pace and seemingly meaningless scenes of static camera shots while people talk about mundane, everyday affairs.

In the capable hands of Mungiu though, this only served to better contrast the heavy themes and events in the film. Sure, usually a long sequence of someone walking in near-pitch dark conditions with only the atmospheric city noises to tell you the sound didn’t cut out might normally be a nap indicator. But much like with Gus Van Sant’s 2003 film “Gerry”, where the film almost entirely consists of two people walking nearly conversation free in the desert, the payoff becomes that much more startling and memorable.

Obviously, this isn’t quite a film for just anyone and whether you choose to find this playing near you or add it to your rental queue is something I can’t quite decide on your behalf. I can say that I’m glad I took the time to let the film soak into my consciousness and this is easily one of the best conversation sparking pieces to be released in the last year, at least.

Only because it’s not quite accessible to the average film audience (thereby depriving them of something thought provoking) am I going to edge “4 Months 3 Weeks and 2 Days” down to a strong 3 out of 5, slipping it under the Iron Curtain. The official Romanian entry for inclusion in the foreign language film category at the 80th Academy Awards, the subject material is well worth exploring and this is one of the films whose effects slowly envelope you and linger on your skin like the smell of perfume from that girl your wife doesn’t know about.

Extra trivia tidbit: In doing some very light Internet research concerning Mungiu’s future projects, it seems he hopes this is but the first of three films about this oppressive time in Romania. Will he be the next Krzysztof Kieslowski? Only time will tell. But I hope he gets the chance to fulfill his vision and I will keep my eyes peeled.