What a crock of shit that this wasn't nominated for Best Foreign Film. Yes, the Best Picture nominations are pretty good (other than Juno) but this is such a travesty. How could this movie be overlooked? Do the people who nominate these movies even watch them or do they just read a brief synopsis of each film?
Anyway, the description of this movie as the "Romanian abortion film" doesn't exactly do it any favors. Yes, it is Romanian and ostensibly, it is about an abortion, but it is about a lot more than that.
Set in 1987, two years before the end of communism in Romania, the film is about a college student Otilia who helps her friend and roommate Gabita procure an illegal abortion. Otilia is level-headed while Gabita doesn't seem to make the best decisions in general. The film's events take place in the course of one day.
Obviously, the film isn't for everyone and it isn't for the faint of heart. Without giving too much away, I'll just say that there is a shot in this film that is the exact opposite of the surprising scene near the end of Knocked Up, a movie that didn't even think of seriously dealing with the idea of abortion.
The black market supplies everything from Kent cigarettes to illegal abortions and everything in between. The paranoia and suspicion mixes interestingly with the complacency and general air of acceptance of the lot everyone finds themselves in. The film feels as immediate as a cross between a Dardenne Brothers effort and a Bourne film. There are moments of this film where I was absolutely terrified and I felt like I was watching the most suspenseful and chilling movie of the year.
I saw this in a packed theater right after the NY Times review glowingly called it the best film of 2007. As the people left the theater (many of them senior citizens) I heard many complaints about how boring the film was. I couldn't disagree more. I was riveted. I would rank this as more of a thriller than a 2006 favorite (The Death of Mr. Lazarescu) which was more of an absurd comedy.
In general, I'm struck how a country with pretty much no movie theaters (I recall hearing that there are only 40 theaters in the entire country) for a population of 22 million people can be producing such amazing films of late. I mean, who would think that a movie about an illegal abortion would feel like a thriller and a movie about a dying old man would be such an absurd comedy? Brilliant.
Directed by Cristian Mungiu
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