Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films of 2000 to 2009.
How 2007’s 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days made viewers feel depended little, if at all, on their abortion stance.
Set in 1980s Communist Romania, where abortion was illegal, Cristian Mungiu’s 4 Months used the procedure as a MacGuffin for caustic commentary about Communist clampdowns and one friendship’s annihilative death spiral through loyalty, desperation and sacrifice.
Laura Vasiliu is Gabita, a college student needing an abortion who enlists her friend Otilia (Anamaria Marinca) to help her. As faits accompli pile on, Otilia must ascertain how far she will go, and what she would give of herself, to assist Gabita.
With that countdown title, Mungiu’s film is a ticking-clock emotional thriller. Trust gives way to suspicion and anger — even hotel-desk exchanges feel like checkpoint interrogations. A dinner-table scene is filled with Communist-blight stories of poverty that pale alongside that of which Gabita and Otilia have been robbed.
And the even-keel unflappability of abortionist Bebe (Vlad Ivonov) amid such poor preparedness and blatant lies makes him even more unpredictably dangerous.
4 Months is deliberately paced, as recitations and reactions dictate the rhythm. Uncomfortably unbroken takes provide only a powerless perspective of staring from a corner. (There is much we don’t see but always sense, some of it repulsive.)
The unsurprising lack of consolation in Mungiu’s utterly unshakeable film arrived at Otilia’s realization of this stark truth: Some of those whom we love and trust will unexpectedly and irrevocably fail us, even if their intentions are good. Afterward, whether we can forgive them and forge ahead with our lives is the question.