Otilia (Anamaria Marinca) and Gabita (Laura Vasiliu) are college roommates. They may live in the wintry squalor of 1987 Romania -- in the last days of Communism -- but their lives seem familiar to us despite that gigantic difference; they have exams coming up, friends and lovers, future opportunities and current challenges. They may buy their perfume on the black market, but they still buy it -- they're kids, essentially. There's school; there's the joy and effort of friendships; there's the looming reality of future mandatory military service; most pressingly, Gabita needs to have an abortion -- in a rigidly-policed state where that's been illegal for decades. Otilia is going to help her -- How could she not? -- but neither of them are prepared for what that's ultimately going to cost.
Written and directed by Cristian Mungiu, 4 Months 3 Weeks & 2 Days is the sort of film that will inspire a visceral reaction from most moviegoers -- a quick grimace, a darting look away: Wow, that sounds not-fun. And no, 4 Months 3 Weeks & 2 Days is not 'fun' -- but it's incredibly affecting, magnificently acted and superbly made; in a lot of ways, it reminded me of last year's Oscar-winner for Best Foreign Film, The Lives of Others, insofar as both depict universal challenges of human existence -- what to do about one's problems, how those difficulties can poison how we deal with others -- with the harsh realities of fascist power making those challenges even more difficult to deal with. I cannot imagine how hard it must be to decide to have an abortion and see it through in the here-and-now; watching that agonizing choice played out with additional layers of challenge -- bribes, secrecy, covert meetings and the looming possibility of jail -- is achingly painful and fraught with tension.