“4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Hours” – Susan Granger reviews

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Winner of the Palme d’Or at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival, this is a bleak, low-key, intimate glimpse into the emotional wretchedness of a woman’s life in 1987 during the final days of the communist Ceausescu regime in Romania when abortions were illegal.

College roommates Gabita (Laura Vasiliu) and Otilia (Anamaria Marinca) face a major dilemma. Gabita’s pregnant and Otilia’s agreed to accompany her to have an abortion. But irresponsible Gabita’s jangled nerves require pragmatic Otilia to make most of the arrangements, including buying soap, bartering money and bargaining on the black market for cigarettes. Problem is: Gabita’s not entirely honest about how far along her pregnancy is – and what will be required to convince the bullying black market abortionist, Mr. Bebe (Vlad Ivanov), to do the job.

Suspense heightens with Mr. Bebe’s blunt retribution after discovering that Gabita has not followed his precise instructions and Otilia’s reluctant departure to attend her boy-friend’s mother’s birthday party. In that tedious dinner party scene, mindless chatter ironically camouflages Otilia’s simmering inner drama.

Devoted to realism as part of the Romanian New Wave, filmmaker Christian Mungiu shoots each scene in one take with Oleg Mutu’s camera capturing characters as they pass in and out of the frame, along with details like a bus that runs on bomb-like gas cylinders.

What’s most remarkable is the splendid ensemble. Devoid of histrionics, the actors explore their characters softly, yet with chilling authenticity, particularly Anamaria Marinca (“Youth Without Youth”), whose silences speak volumes.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days” is a grim, harrowing 8. After the fall of communism in 1989, one of the first measures taken in Romania was to legalize abortion again.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.