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4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days

4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days, 2007

Otilia (Anamaria Marinca) assists her friend, Gabita (Laura Vasiliu) in obtaining an illegal abortion in 1980s Romania, where both birth control and abortion are considered crimes. As the weight falls on Otilia to deal with Gabita, the sketchy abortion doctor who meets them in their hotel room (Vlad Ivanov), and her boyfriend who is peeved that she might miss his mother's birthday party, the strain begins to become too much.

It is interesting, and downright masterful, the way that this film manages to be about abortion and yet center its emotional weight not on the act itself (and/or the morality of that act), but rather on the circumstances that lead to such an act in the first place. If you asked me whether the film was for or against abortion, I honestly could not say, but the film is very clear in condemning the behavior of several of the characters.

Making Otilia the focus of the narrative is an interesting move. She is not the person getting the abortion, and yet she suffers because of it both due to the behavior of the abortion doctor---who extorts sex from both women--and the way that it reframes her relationship with her boyfriend.

Probably my favorite sequence in the film was a conversation between Otilia and her boyfriend. When she admits to having helped someone get an abortion, he is shocked and chastises her. But when she asks what he would do if she became pregnant, he eventually just declares "I would take care of it" (an ambiguity if ever there was one!). When she brings up the fact that recently she asked him to pull out during sex and in the moment he refused, he tries to shut her down. "So you are embarrassed to talk about it but not to do it?". she asks. There is an interesting parallel in this moment between the boyfriend and the skeevy abortion doctor. The doctor refuses to say out loud what he wants from the two young women. He will not articulate that he is demanding sex from them. When Otilia is unclear what he is asking for, he grows angry and says that he doesn't want to have to repeat himself. It is interesting how these men are willing to do harmful, abusive things to the women, and yet seem repulsed by having those things named.

I really enjoyed Anamaria Marinca's performance as Otilia. She tries to do right by her friend (and by her boyfriend), but repeatedly has to put up with lies and evasions, including from Gabita. Once the momentum of the day seizes her, all she can do is try and course-correct as best she can. In a society where even birth control is regulated and unavailable, it will always be women without financial means who are hit the hardest when it comes to unplanned pregnancies. In Otilia you see a woman who is aware of this, but at the same time must deal with it being pushed in her face so that she cannot tune out this depressing reality. Part of what separates Otilia and Gabita is luck--especially with an uncooperative boyfriend who won't do basic things to prevent a pregnancy--and you get the sense that this is partly what drives Otilia to work so hard on her friend's behalf.

Whatever your stance on abortion, this is a perceptive, honest look at a dire situation.