4 MONTHS, 3 WEEKS AND 2 DAYS directed and written by Cristian Mungiu, with Anamaria Marinca, Laura Vasiliu, Vlad Ivanov. A Mongrel Media release. 113 minutes. Subtitled. Opens Friday (November 2). Rating: NNNN
You could hear an audible sigh of relief from the Cannes jury after 4 Months, 3 Weeks And 2 Days screened on the opening Friday night of the festival.
"If nothing else comes along," you could hear them thinking, "we can give Anamaria Marinca the best-actress prize."
They didn't, but the film did manage to hold off some very good movies to snag the Palme d'Or as best film.
Marinca, who won a BAFTA award for her work in Sex Traffic, plays a college student in late-80s Romania, where abortion is illegal. It's impossible to find Kents on the black market, her roommate has another serious problem, and the abortionist she finally finds is a creep.
This is a tough, thoughtful drama about people making bad choices and then being forced to make horrible choices, filmed largely handheld and on video, which makes the lighting even more depressing. It's not poorly lit, but lit to give the feeling of life under a Communist dictatorship, all 40-watt bulbs and flourescents, under which everyone seems to have bad skin.
I'm scratching my head wondering who is the market for this film. I wish Mongrel all the best on the release and hope it does well, but as foreign films go, it starts with about three strikes against it - unknown cast, unknown director and it's Romanian. (Nothing against the Romanians, but I suspect that whatever it grosses in North America, it will automatically become the top-grossing Romanian film ever in North America.) It ain't exactly Amélie.
Highly recommended, but emotionally speaking, it's not for the faint of heart.