4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days Cristian Mungiu

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days Cristian Mungiu

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 year’s winner of the Palme D’or 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 Ceauºescu’s 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 it’s not until we get all three of them into a hotel room that it’s 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 that’s never been evoked on screen before. The abortionist proves to be a supremely cold-hearted pragmatist who shreds his client’s 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, it’s everything a movie should be.

If you don’t 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)