They say that Romania is the new international cinema hotspot, and if this scorching masterpiece is any indication, you can expect me to back that statement all the way. This years winner of the Palme Dor at Cannes is a brilliantly structural, deeply moral and quietly devastating exercise in humanism that cries out for more than one screening.
Set in 1987 (and deep in Ceauºescus iron grip), it tells the story of two young, female roommates who have arranged to do something. There are infuriating rules to be met and a secret rendezvous with an unsympathetic man but its not until we get all three of them into a hotel room that its revealed that the smaller, more frightened woman is arranging an illegal abortion.
Up until this point director Cristian Mungiu has brilliantly evoked the secrecy and silence surrounding such an act, but his reveal opens up a world of hurt thats never been evoked on screen before. The abortionist proves to be a supremely cold-hearted pragmatist who shreds his clients self-esteem said client is a panic-stricken young girl too terrified to think straight and her friend is left to pick up the pieces when no one else will step in.
This could very easily have been a self-righteous, social-realist trudge but Mungiu is too much a director for that to ever happen; his masterful use of long takes and deceptively simple set-ups unleash a clearinghouse full of nuance like no other movie this year. Serious without being strenuous and light on its feet without trivialising its subject, its everything a movie should be.
If you dont see this picture, you are going to regret it. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow but soon, and for the rest of your life. (Mongrel Media)