Tuesday, After Christmas:

There have been one or two movies about infidelity before (maybe three), and while you may have naturally assumed that 'Obsession' was the ultimate cinematic comment on the subject, Radu Muntean's 'Tuesday, After Christmas' is perhaps the most vital "boy cheats girl" tale since Bergman's 'Scenes From a Marriage.' A clean and unyielding portrait of the Bucharest bourgeoise, Muntean's film wastes little time in transcending its familiar milieu. Its first shot - one of those miraculous long-takes that have become a staple of recent Romanian cinema - is immediately arresting as it observes Cristi (Dragos Bucur) and Raluca (Maria Popistasu) sharing a relaxed and engaging post-coital conversation in the nude. Raluca isn't Cristi's wife, she's his daughter's dentist, and while the various relationships aren't made explicitly clear until the next scene, the instability of their affair is clear from their affectionate but wary conversation. There aren't all that many films which offer both penis and labia in their opening image (at least not since the 'Alpha and Omega' debacle of 2010), but it's essential to Muntean's approach that his characters appear as exposed to us as they do inscrutable to one another.

Because 'Tuesday, After Christmas' derives its power not from avoiding the beats and tropes we've come to expect from this kind of story, but from not apologizing for them - Muntean approaches these moments with a complete lack of vanity, and a greater concern for what makes them ordinary instead of what makes them his. All that Muntean's characters have to do to transcend their archetypes is to be decent and rational (Cristi's wife isn't a nasty shrew, and Raluca never suddenly succumbs to 'Fatal Attraction' syndrome), and the film's precise and unconventional framing highlights its remarkable performances.