Mar 2008 14

This Romanian abortion thriller by Cristian Mungiu is an effective thriller that meanders too much for its own good and leaving a bit too many things vague while showcasing the trial and tribulations to getting an illegal abortion.
The film feels gritty and real and captures the times of Romania very well in 1987. We get plenty of subtle hints of the control in the country and become very aware of the consequences of the actions that take place if they are caught. The two lead actresses do a very affective job as we fully believe the conflicted struggles of Otilia (Anamaria Marinca) helping her roommate Gabita (Laura Vasiliu) go through with her abortion.
We are thrown right into these characters lives as we get a glimpse of the black market and dorm life of a Romanian student and the comradely that many of these people posses working together to get around the system. We receive little to no back story while we follow Otilia setting up the plans and following the precautions to do prepare for the act in question.
The viewer is left to assume motives for much of the film, which never really comes out and says what it wants you to think. This can be a very good thing, and I applaud the filmmakers for not taking us viewers intelligence for granted, but at the same time there are a few things left too open and with little evidence only allowing us viewers to grossly speculate the cause of certain reactions and emotion.
Both of the female leads bring some excellent work to the table, easily capturing the mystery, interest, and fear in taking the courses of action that they have to take. They both tell so much with their faces and the disgust and pain flowing through them just bounds off the screen.
The other main player in all of this is Mr. Bebe, played with subtle menace by Vlad Ivanov who you can never get a very good read on as the “doctor” who performs the abortion.
What really hurts this film is the extended and dragged out takes that bring absolutely nothing to the table other than to let the director and actors show off that they can do something in one take. I understand budget and time probably lent to the use of single one takes and long shots, and that is fine, and I am a major fan of impressive feats with a one take. The film is actually assembled from very few shots with minimal cuts, but what bothered me were a couple of lingering takes that had no point, and a dinner table extended take that kills the momentum of the movie right before the finale. I mean just grinds it to a halt, and everything that we get out of that scene could have been conveyed in a far smaller amount of time then the long lingering take that ends up in the film. I think this scene also exhausts much of the tension the film was slowly brooding up and I feel like it might have hurt the final act for Otilia in the end.
With that said though, when the film works, it works well, but I feel that the film could have been trimmed down to a tighter and taught 90 minutes and we wouldn’t have lost anything. The film ends on a perfect note as well and I can’t imagine a better ending, even if it leaves too many issues ill explained. This was the winner at Cannes last year and while I think it’s a solid film it is not anything astonishing or amazing. If you a fan of foreign cinema make sure to seek this one out, but if you are not interested in the film by the time you’re reading this, I doubt watching it will win you over by any means. I was going to rate this a hair lower, but that was simply because of my spite for that damn dinner scene. Without that scene though, this could have been 8 or higher; easily.


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