I've never seen a critical reception as uniformly positive as that surrounding the release of the foreign film 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days. The movie follows a pregnant college student, Gabita, her best friend, Otilla, and their attempts to procure an illegal abortion for the former. (The title refers to how far along in her pregnancy Gabita is when she sets out to terminate it; the film is set in 1987, more than 20 years into the dictatorial regime of Nicolae Ceauşescu, under whom abortion was outlawed.) 29-year-old actress Anamaria Marinca plays Otilla, the film's protagonist, and her nuanced performance has sent reviewers into paroxysms of praise. "Foremost among the many revelations is Marinca's stellar turn as Otilia," says Variety. "It's not just the way she transforms scripted dialogue into real-speak (a quality shared by the rest of the stellar cast), but her ability to convey all her inner struggles in silence." More critical acclaim, after the jump.
New York Times
4 Months deserves to be seen by the largest audience possible, partly because it offers a welcome alternative to the coy, trivializing attitude toward abortion now in vogue in American fiction film...Mr. Mungiu never forgets the palpably real women at the center of his film, and one of its great virtues is that neither do you.
The action takes place over the longest 24 hours in the lives of fellow college students Gabita (Laura Vasiliu) and her roommate, Otilia (Anamaria Marinca, who'd win an Oscar in my ideal universe). Gabita is the pregnant one; she's also the more childlike one, nearly paralyzed with fear. So it falls to Otilia, the more resourceful one, to arrange for a termination — raising the cash, procuring the abortionist, and booking the hotel in which the terrible business can be done...Misery is everywhere in this spare masterpiece, but so is artistic triumph.
Otilia's powerlessness is more and more palpable, and as she struggles to keep her focus, the camera remains transfixed. So do we. It's 1987, two years before the overthrow of the Stalinist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, a time of shortages and cynicism, and Otilia's dogged composure becomes increasingly heroic. We want her not just to survive, but to survive with her humanity intact.
The abortion is the ultimate violation of Gabita's body—and not just hers. The procedure is shown in an unflinching single take. How do these Romanian actors train? As in Lazarescu, the ensemble scenes are mind-boggling, and the principle performances get at an authenticity beyond naturalism.
For all the lack of overt political suppression in the film, something about the dulling of basic courtesies tells us everything about life under the totalitarian grind. Otilia, standing at the check-in desk, might be a lover, wearily seeking refuge for a tryst. In fact, she is dealing not with love but its consequences. And the love isn't even hers.
In a coda, set in the hotel restaurant, Mungiu gives us a moment to let the themes of the film resonate. He knows that in Romania today abortion is a common form of contraception and that being pro-choice doesn't make him an advocate of the easy fix. It's the tension between those two poles, movingly readable on Marinca's face, that deepens the film's meaning and raises it very close to the level of art.
Los Angeles Times
The reason "4 Months" has such resonance is because it believes with fearless audacity in the power and possibility of the medium. Writer-director Mungiu has an almost old-fashioned faith that film can explore the most painful subjects, ask the deepest questions, deliver the most important meanings.
Foremost among the many revelations is Marinca's stellar turn as Otilia. It's not just the way she transforms scripted dialogue into real-speak (a quality shared by the rest of the stellar cast), but her ability to convey all her inner struggles in silence. Vasiliu is equally fine, a frightened young woman desperate to end her ordeal.
4 Months, 3 Weeks And 2 Days (2007) [New York Times]
4 Months, 3 Weeks And 2 Days [Entertainment Weekly]
Thawed Rage [New York Magazine]
Gone Baby Gone [Village Voice]
Monstrous Times [New Yorker]
4 Months, 3 Weeks And 2 Days [Rolling Stone]
'4 Months' [Los Angeles Times]
4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days [Variety]