Many have proclaimed that the only misstep in Cristian Mungiu’s searing, expertly paced Palme d’or winner 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days is its deployment of one particularly in-your-face climactic image. The content of the shot shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to those who know the subject matter of the film, yet most viewers I’ve spoken with have nevertheless deemed it an intentional “shock.” While I certainly can’t quibble with anyone’s gut reaction to Mungiu’s decision to finally show and not tell, to me this image is integral not only to the film’s success but also to its nature. Mungiu’s movie may not need more plaudits, yet it might need defending. What we have here is a film in which (with one notable narrative exception) we see all its protagonist sees, hear what she hears, swallow fear, intake images just as she does; that 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days, ostensibly the story of an illegal abortion, is greatly privileged to the point of view of a young woman who helps her friend procure the abortion and not the pregnant girl herself illustrates just how trickily experiential the film is. In fact, despite the controversial, long, lingering close-up in question (which, in my opinion, allows the viewer to see what they don’t want to see, as a means to getting over the dread associated with it and moving on), 4 Months is not really an “abortion movie” at all. Rather, it’s unerringly fixated on matters of female self-preservation, survival, togetherness, and alienation.
Click here to read the rest of Michael Koresky's review of 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days.