I'm sure most of you reading this aren't huge fans of two and a half hour Romanian films about a dying man. Well, consider changing your mind. This is a good movie. While the movie's events don't really take place during real time, it is close enough. So consider this the Romanian dying man version of 24. Instead of counting down to Kiefer figuring out a way to avert catastrophe yet once again, this film counts down the sad end of a lonely man.
The movie begins with Mr. Lazarescu alone in his apartment with his three beloved cats. He's not feeling well. So he self medicates with some whiskey. This is a bad decision because he ends up getting lectured for the rest of the film about his drinking habits. He calls a private ambulance service. The nurse who shows up ends up being his one true ally the rest of the evening.
She shuttles him from one hospital to another. No one wants to be bothered. They all are too busy with their own shit, too arrogant to listen to the nurse or the patient, too swamped with other cases, or too willing to pass the buck.
The film is an indictment on the Romanian healthcare system, something that I'm sure none of us are experts in. But the film doesn't play obscure. The themes are universal. If you aren't rich, you aren't going to get the best healthcare. Some of the hospital scenes are supposed to be shocking in how dirty and inept the whole endeavor is. However, having spent a little bit of time in two Brooklyn emergency rooms over the past few years, things aren't all that much different here. And as SHR commented, "At least they have curtains that close and give you some privacy at the hospitals in Romania."
If this film sounds sad, it is. But it is very entertaining. Lazarescu is an interesting character as are his neighbors, the nurse, the ambulance driver, and the all of the obnoxios medical staff. The 150 minutes go by pretty quickly. Granted, I watched it in two sittings but the movie never dragged for me. This film isn't for everyone but for the people who will give it a chance, I don't think you'll be disappointed.
Directed by Cristi Puiu
2005, US Release: 2006
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