A Romanian gem at the IFC

Debuting at the same time as movies that involve monsters terrorizing cities and famous actors blasting guns, it is hard to see how the “less is more” feel of the Romanian indie drama “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days” can even compare. Sold out showtimes and lines wrapping around the block at the Independent Film Center in Manhattan (the theater of the movie’s limited premiere), however, show that not everybody is clamoring for the blockbusters that most of America craves to see.

Seeing a movie that has subtitles can oftentimes put people off, and make them wonder whether watching a foreign film is worth the effort; in the case of “4 Months,” however, audiences will find themselves so immersed in the simple, yet intense, day-long plot that they will forget that the actors are not speaking English.

In a nutshell, the movie is about a woman seeking an abortion. Many who know this prior to seeing the film can probably guess that the title, “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days,” is exactly how far along Gabita (Laura Vasiliu) is in her pregnancy when she makes the decision. Yet unlike the plot of recent movies, Gabita is only the supporting character to Anamaria Marinca’s character, Otilia, who is Gabita’s dedicated friend and roommate.

Set during the end of communist rule in Romania, these young women have to go to great lengths to secure the abortion. Gabita hires a man that her friend has recommended, Mr. Bebe (Vlad Ivanov), to perform the termination. Instead of honoring their agreement to meet Mr. Bebe where he wants to meet, Gabita sends Otilia to meet him on the dark and gloomy streets. This is not the only agreement Gabita has broken, for she has also booked a room at the wrong hotel. To top it all off, Gabita confesses to Mr. Bebe that she is not 2 months pregnant, as she had originally told him, but “maybe 4 months.” Because she is so far along, this takes the operation from a simple offense to what could be considered murder. Mr. Bebe demands that because he is risking his freedom, they will need to give him something else, in addition to the money. In desperation, both young ladies sleep with him.

In addition to the abortion, the movie also focuses on Otilia’s relationship with her boyfriend, who is desperate to make his relationship with Otilia work. Gabita’s situation, however, creates a cloud of depression over the relationship, as Otilia seems unhappy with anything her boyfriend says or does. A scene in which the couple are celebrating his mother’s birthday does a superb job showcasing Otilia’s misery, with the jubilant guests eating, drinking and laughing as Otilia sits with an air of annoyance and a blank expression on her face.

Director Cristian Mungiu has done a beautiful job of capturing every minute detail of this disturbing day, which, in the end, is what makes the movie phenomenal. Though the movie does not involve gunfire or boogeymen, audiences will experience even more shock and intensity than any slasher flick could provide.

4/4 stars