4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days (Christian Mungiu, Romania, 2008)
The abortion issue grabs much of the attention of 4M,3w&2D but I've always felt the main issue was living in the crumbling last days of the oppressive Ceausescu regime. Everything in the film is dirty, grimy, crumbling, not pleasant in general. Reflecting again upon the film, it's this overbearingly bleak setting that allows the other actions in the film to take place. The focus of the plot is on two women, Gabita, who needs an abortion, and Otila, her roommate who becomes involved in her helping her find one. What makes the film work is Mungiu knowing how to handle the material without being sensationalistic (to a point) and how to craft tension. Like the setting the two characters are living in, there is a climate of constant surveillance and paranoia hovering over Gabita and Otila, from them checking into the hotel to Otila getting back to check on Gabita after a family dinner. It's Mungiu's tactful pacing and manipulation of tension, even when there isn't much of it in reality, that draw the viewer in more than the social drama present in the plot. If the film wasn't so well-crafted, it would allow for the more dubious moments of logic to expose and hamper the film. Mungiu also creates a lot of sympathy in Gabit and Otila, even through their torrent of bad decisions. The only caveat is that the way they are portrayed leaves the door open for a bit of a feminist argument and how the two aren't strong women. While it could be a problem, the fact that it hasn't been brought up much and that world around is a partial explanation of their actions, it never hampers the film in my mind. 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days showed that strong social drama can come from all places, except Hollywood.