4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days

Writer-director Cristian Mungiu’s subject—an illegal abortion in Ceausescu’s Romania—is simple; his austere presentation, judiciously framed in unblinking long takes, neither exploits nor sentimentalizes. The movie’s heroines are the young woman (Laura Vasiliu) who needs the procedure and the friend (Anamaria Marinca) who helps her arrange it. As Mungiu reveals through an accretion of subtle, sometimes harrowing details, theirs is a world of self-propagating scarcities, in which every personal interaction becomes a transaction, and most descend to extortion. 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days is what we’ve come to expect from the best Eastern European cinema: It’s economically dramatized, brilliantly controlled and powerfully humane—with faces you could watch for days and better roles for women than you’ll find anywhere. It’s also a well-calibrated suspense-thriller, with glints of dark, daring comedy and the lightest possible touch.