Doodad Kind of Town

4 Months 3 Weeks and 2 Days
January 28, 2008, 1:50 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Count me among those who believe the Oscars’ snub of “4 Months 3 Weeks and 2 Days” borders on criminal.

There’s probably nothing meaningful I can add to the heaps of praise already bestowed on this quietly devastating Romanian film. It won the Palme D’or at Cannes last year and a boatload of prizes since. What the Oscar voters were thinking when they omitted it from their list of Best Foreign Language Film nominees, I have no idea.

“4 Months,” set in the Communist-controlled Romania of 1987, chronicles a day in the life of a student (Anamaria Marinca) who is helping her roommate to obtain an illegal abortion. It’s told in a simple, straightforward manner which makes it all the more compelling. I almost wished I hadn’t known the whole story of the film going in, since it isn’t spelled out that an abortion is in the makings until a good 40 minutes into the film; I wish I had been able to puzzle it out myself or be surprised when the day’s objective became clear.

Even so, I found Marinca’s performance phenomenal, and I wonder why she hasn’t been on any major “Best Actress” nominee lists so far. Hers is not a “showy” performance, it doesn’t draw attention to itself. But just as her character, Otilia, is the steadfast anchor in her frazzled friend’s life, so Marinca’s is the grounding performance in the film.

Just watch her persistently bargaining with a hotel clerk to book the room in which the abortion will take place, negotiating with the unsavory abortionist or struggling to maintain her composure at her boyfriend’s family birthday party. Marinca’s Otilia is steely and purposeful, but ultimately vulnerable. Particularly harrowing are the penultimate scenes, in which Otilia must remove and dispose of all evidence of the abortion; shot in partial darkness and with only the gasps of Otilia’s frightened, labored breathing on the soundtrack, these scenes spell out for us the emotional toll that the day has taken on her.

The film isn’t so much about abortion – it doesn’t spell out what’s right and wrong here – as it is about friendship and sacrifice. It’s a stunning achievement.

And you don’t have to find an art house theatre in order to see it. If you have OnDemand through your cable service, “4 Months 3 Weeks and 2 Days” is available to view right in your own home this month. I can’t recommend enough that you order it.

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Good news – no OnDemand, but IFC in Theaters is on DirecTv’s PPV as well. Looks like I can catch this after all (not in theaters here yet…).

Comment by Fletch

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