It is 1987 as communism is coming to an end in Romania, two girls Otilia and Gabita are college students and roommates in Bucharest. Gabita is pregnant and has decided to have an illegal abortion. After Gabita decides to contact Mr. Bebe, who performs abortions, Otilia and Gabita meet him in a hotel where he will perform the abortion. Unfortunately they don’t have enough money to pay for his services, so instead his asks to be paid with sexual favors, this is a decision that both girls will have to make and in the end come to terms with the worth of their decisions.
Cristian Mungiu who directed 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days, creates a film that takes the sensitive issue of abortion, but instead of making a film that takes a stand on the subject, he lets it be. The storyline plays like if this was someone’s actual life; none of the scenes feel contrived. Rather it is as if one is there looking through Otilia and Gabita’s window watching them as they go through this day in their lives. Mungiu uses a more neutral approach in his storytelling; this approach gives the audience a more holistic view on the situation and enables them to create their own opinions about it. The end of the film in particular sums up the entire format which Mungiu seemed to be aiming for. It is simple and unlike the majority of film endings which try to put everything together and answer every question this ending leaves one thinking after it has ended.
The characters in this film felt authentic not just because of the storyline but also because of the actors who portrayed them. Anamaria Marinca who plays Otilia is very effective as the friend who decides to help her friend with her abortion. Her performance is very subtle but effective; this is so because of the way she reacts to the situation of her character, it is as if one is watching real life not a performance on the screen. Like Anamaria Marinca, Laura Vasiliu gives a believable performance. She portrays Gabita who decided to have an abortion even though she could not have imagined the amount of sacrifice this decision would have. Vasiliu is able to show the vulnerability of Gabita as well as her naïve view and take on the situation. Vlad Ivanov’s performance though minimal, has a major impact on the lives of the two main characters. Ivanov plays Mr. Bebe, the man who will perform the abortion on Gabita, and whose actions make the situation in which Gabita and Otilia are in that much harder. Though he portrays an unscrupulous and conniving person he doesn’t deliver an exaggerated or forgettable performance. His portrayal of this character hits it right on the spot. These performances add an authentic feel to the film and enhance the overall story that is being told.
In this film the camera work also contributes to the overall feel of the film. The cinematography appears simple, no real hi-tech tricks instead it lets the audience observe the film as if they themselves were there, just another person standing next to these characters watching it all unfold. This simplistic approach to the camerawork allows the story to feel more authentic and thus more effective.
Unlike some directors that use their films as messages that deliver their views or stand on certain issues, especially when the subject is of such sensitive matter, Mungiu does the opposite. He lets the story just play out like it would in reality and lets the audience come to their own conclusions about the situation. The actors and the cinematography add to what Mungiu is trying to do by creating performances and scenery that compliment the tone of the film. Finally because Mungiu decided to use a more neutral approach to telling this story he created a film that has more substance and therefore has more of an impact on its audience which is after all one of the filmmakers main goals.