Tuesday, March 10, 2015

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days Review

I recently had someone tell me when referring to why he didn't like the best film of last year, Boyhood, that he didn't want anything to do with realism in movies because it wasn't entertaining to watch what surrounds him every day in life. He turns to movies for an escape, as we all do at times, so I understand and appreciate that thought process and as always, to each their own. I won't tell him what to like or why he is wrong because it is a matter of opinion and he isn't wrong for his preferences, but personally I can't wrap my mind around such an indifference to a deeper experience from art. 

If you asked me to describe the film 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, the word entertaining would not enter my mind let alone leave my lips. Devastating. Jarring. Haunting. Unsettling. Horrifying. Brutal. All of these words, sure, they would properly paint the picture that was sketched by director Cristian Mungiu, but entertaining would not. So one would assume I would not recommend the film, but I would. Oh my goodness I would. 

The craft of this picture is stunning, the realism almost too real, the pain nearly too painful. The story revolves around two women, Gabita and Otilia, the former being pregnant and seeking an abortion despite it being forbidden by the government of a communist Romania. The film takes place over the course of the day in which they make an appointment with a man to provide them such an illegal service, and what occurs during this time caused my stomach to literally churn but I couldn't look away. Many scenes are filmed with a static camera and the takes are long which allows the emotion to linger, the tensions to run high and the pain to resonate. 

Some films are suited for frenetic editing as their stories are best told with urgency, using frequent cuts and a fast pace to fry the nerves of the audience. 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days is not one of those films. By keeping the camera still and focused, we are forced to face the ugliness of truth. While the story we are seeing is fictional, technically it isn't. Gabita and Otilia are just characters in a screenplay, but women just like them are forced to make such devastating and life changing decisions in reality when in the shadows of such strict, oppressive laws. The performances of Anamaria Marinca and Laura Vasiliu in the lead roles brought an authenticity to the narrative, and the result of the entire experience is an awful feeling still bubbling inside my gut yet I know I have just witnessed special cinema. 

One of my favorite aspects of this film is that despite covering such a sensitive and divisive subject like abortion, the story never preaches one way or the other. It's such a fine line to walk, making a film about a human rights issue and common political talking point without demonstrating which side of the aisle the storyteller resides on, but this is handled with beauty in 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days. All we are seeing is a truly terrible day in the life of two women, and while it is clear that having to get a serious medical procedure done by a stranger in a hotel room because it is the only option is an awful injustice against humanity, we also are forced to absorb plenty of moments that make us question if getting the abortion at all is a terrible wrong in itself. I won't get into my personal beliefs on the matter because they are irrelevant. All that matters is what this movie makes you feel during those two hours that we inhabit their world.

No, 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days isn't entertaining, and it certainly isn't an escape from the pain that comes with living in the real world. 

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days is honest, important art, a film that resonates on a far deeper level than a fun escape.


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