How much of a plot can an abortion movie really have? It was a question oft-posed by the defenders of Knocked Up and Juno against all those haters who accused them of putting dangerous ideas in Jamie Lynn Spears' head. (Oh look, more fresh accusations!) And then came a film out of Romania that dared to state the obvious answer: you know what makes an abortion movie pretty interesting? When the abortion in question is illegal! 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days takes place in Romania two years before the execution of Stalinist dictaror Nikolai Ceausescu, who outlawed abortion in 1966 as part of a sort of reverse "one child" policy, in which couples who failed to procreate before the age of 25 actually found themselves fined. After the jump I'll tell you if it succeeded.
Well I'm not going to lie to you; this is not a particularly exciting film. If you, like me, are into slow, drab, quiet movies about Soviet bloc nations during the dreary endless wintertime, you'll forgive this. A minor spoiler follows (though you can't really spoil this movie because so much of it is told through its Communist scenery, its muted bleakness of outlook.)
This movie belongs not to the character in need of the abortion, but to her roommate Otilia, who not only scrapes together the funds to secure a hotel room and the services of a black-market doctor, but sets the whole thing up, has sex with the abortionist when he makes it clear that's how he prefers his remuneration, and runs frantically through the night searching for a way to properly get rid of the fetus. Before she does that latter part she picks a fight with her boyfriend, who came inside her without a condom the week earlier; the contrast of his cluelessness with her combination of human neediness and escalating contempt are alllll too familiar.
And yet the most contemptible character — at least among my co-viewers — was the girl who needs the abortion, Gabita. She lies to Otilla, she lies to the doctor, she bursts into desperate tears at nothing, she lies some more, she waxes her legs, she stares, frightened, into mirrors; she smokes Otilla's last cigarette.
She waits four months, three weeks and two days. Her bloody fetus — you get to see it, yay! — is the size of a doll.
She is completely unprepared to give birth. She is completely unprepared for anything. At the end she nearly gives Otilla an aneurysm by sneaking down to the restaurant for dinner; Otilla is sure she's dead or taken away to the gulag or something. But she's deciding between dinner meats. It's the only kind of choice she seems equipped to make.
But Otilla is profoundly strengthened by the experience. The movie is in many ways the story of a young person growing up. Sort of like Seth Rogen in Knocked Up. Only, like, not quite as commercially viable.
Related: A Choice That Films Ignore [Guardian]
Earlier: Romanian Abortion Drama 4 Months Opens To Rave Reviews