4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days

Anamaria Marinca, Laura Vasiliu, Vlad Ivanov, Alexandru Potocean, Ion Sapdaru

Directed by Cristian Mungiu
Rolling Stone: star rating
5 4
Community: star rating
5 4 0
January 25, 2008

You just don't expect Hollywood to produce a masterwork so early in the new year. And it hasn't. This slice of celluloid dynamite comes from Romania, and what you see will floor you. Despite the title, 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days speeds by in a single harrowing day. It grips you in a vise of suspense that Kiefer Sutherland couldn't hope to match on 24, even with that show's tricked-up editing. There are no tricks up the sleeve of writer-director Cristian Mungiu. Most of the time his camera hunkers down rock-steady and observes. The subject is humanity and its oppression. And like the best political films, its focus is intensely personal. Set in 1987 in the final days of Nicolae Ceausescu's dictatorship, the film begins in a college dorm where Otilia (Anamaria Marinca) is trying to help her clueless roommate Gabita (the excellent Laura Vasiliu) arrange an abortion, strictly outlawed since 1966 under the communist regime. A prison sentence awaited not just the woman but anyone involved in aiding or abetting her. Mungiu estimates that by the fall of communism, as many as 500,000 women had died from botched abortions.

In short, the risks are enormous for both Otilia and Gabita, who can't face the poverty of single-motherhood. Mungiu doesn't preach, but he does lay out the grim details with unflinching honesty. The title refers to the exact time that Gabita has been pregnant, a fact she stupidly hides from the insidious abortionist Bebe (Vlad Ivanov) out of fear that he'll think her too far along. Bebe visits her in a hotel room arranged for the so-called "probe." Ivanov won the prize for best supporting actor from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, and with good reason. He'll freeze your blood. Bebe is a tyrant, clinical in attitude, even when demanding sex from both women for his services.

Still, it's after the abortion is over that the film's thrill quotient goes into overdrive. Otilia reluctantly leaves Gabita in bed to have dinner with her boyfriend, Adi (Alex Potocean), and his parents and their noisy friends. The table scene, shot in close-up by the gifted cinematographer Oleg Mutu, traps Otilia in a sea of jabber. We know what she's thinking, how she's coming apart inside. There's no way your nerves won't be shattered as Otilia races back to Gabita and begins her terrifying odyssey to dispose of the (graphically displayed) fetus. Marinca gives the kind of performance awards are made for. This is great acting — ou can't shake it. The same goes for the filmmaking. 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.

Movie Review Main Next


Community Guidelines »
loading comments

loading comments...


Sort by:
    Read More

    Movie Reviews

    More Reviews »
    Around the Web
    Powered By ZergNet
    Daily Newsletter

    Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

    Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
    marketing partners.


    We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

    Song Stories

    “Long Walk Home”

    Bruce Springsteen | 2007

    When the subject of this mournful song returns home, he hardly recognizes his town. Springsteen told Rolling Stone the alienation the man feels is a metaphor for life in a politically altered post-9/11 America. “Who would have ever thought we’d live in a country without habeas corpus?” he said. “That’s Orwellian. That’s what political hysteria is about and how effective it is. I felt it in myself. You get frightened for your family, for your home. And you realize how countries can move way off course, very far from democratic ideals.”

    More Song Stories entries »