Hooray for Romanian miserabalism. Really, I don’t think I saw a more depressing film in 2008 that 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days. And I don’t think I saw a film that affected me more, possibly in the last decade. Don’t want to spoil any eventual decade list that I might do in 2015, but expect to see this in the area. Because even now, thinking about it, so much of the feel of the film comes back, specific events too, but the overarching sense of dread. Because while 4 Months. 3 Weeks and 2 Days is a historically set film about getting an illicit abortion in Ceau?escu’s 1980’s Romania, it is also a visceral horror movie and a nailbiting thriller. And for such a specific setting there are aspects which are easily universalised.

The plot is simple, two friends, one gets pregnant. The passive pregnant one, Gabita needs an abortion, which was illegal then in Romania. Otilla, her more assertive friend pretty much does everything to procure one for her. And everything is true. She risks death, imprisonment and – well lets say some pretty horrible things happen to her – just for helping her friend. Within the bounds of the film, and its stark ugly cinematography, you are completely sold on this friendship even though it feels terribly one sided. Which is one of the things which makes the film easily universalised. Everyone has been in friendships and relationships which are unequal, seeing something play out like that on an almost Grand Guignol scale, puts such relationships into relief. Allows us to be reflexive about a situation we are not in.

The acting is spot on. Bearing in mind where sympathies should be lying in this story, it is amazing how much they switch between characters and then to a whole loathing of the situation. There are moments of suspense which just involve walking down a street or waiting around which are almost unbearable. Indeed the person I went to see it with found it a little bit too draining and i understand her point (I can also see how it plays significantly differently to women). The film is shot in an ugly, rough style, like a nightmare of a Dardennes brothers film – and they aren’t exactly a bunch of roses to start off with. And yet alongside all the horror there are moments of hope, moments of resilience, moment that make you think if anyone is going to get out of this horrible situation alive its Otilla. It is just a great piece of work, and whilst it is no fun, sometimes you are thankful for coming out of the cinema changed.