Writer and director Cristian Mungiu’s 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days is an unsensational drama on a very sensational topic. Like Cristi Puiu’s The Death of Mr. Lazarescu, it is shot in Dogme style with a handheld camera, long takes, and no score. Both films remorselessly lead the viewer through journeys likely undertaken by many throughout human history, although which most people would prefer to never know about. Although it seems ridiculous to talk about such a serious film in terms of “spoilers”, I do wish to caution any readers who have not yet seen the film to stop here.
In 1987 Romania, students Otilia (Anamaria Marinca) and Gabita (Laura Vasiliu) pool their money and make elaborate plans for an unspecified illicit event. What exactly the two young women seek is withheld for some time, building considerable suspense. No matter one’s political or religious beliefs, it is a simple fact that any society in which abortion is illegal produces a corresponding black market in dangerous back-alley procedures. 4 Months is not a passionate argument for or against the legality of abortion, but rather an unadorned illustration of two women’s experiences obtaining one.
4 Months begs comparison with another naturalistic film on a similar theme: Mike Leigh’s Vera Drake. It would be reductive to say 4 Months is a “better” film, but in comparison, it does make Vera Drake seem like a conventional courtroom drama with overly emotional acting.