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'4 Months, 3 Weeks' takes serious look at unwanted pregnancy

'4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days

(NR)

2 1/2 stars out of 4

In 2007, there were three well-received, critically lauded American comedies that focused on the issue of unwanted pregnancy. Neither "Waitress," "Knocked-Up" nor "Juno" ended with an abortion, which gave many cause to reconsider usually left-leaning Hollywood's political slant on this most-divisive issue.

In "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days," Romanian writer/director Cristian Mungiu approaches the same subject matter with a much more serious and political approach. Abortion in Communist-era Eastern Europe wasn't an option for women; it was a capital crime, punishable by death.

Throughout, the movie is presented with a third person's unobtrusive air, which both adds and detracts from its overall impact. Mungiu's detached, mostly unemotional presentation ignores the moral aspect and instead turns it into a legal dilemma, which makes complete sense given its setting.

After an uninspiring, lackadaisical opening, the movie hits its relative stride with Otilia (Anamaria Marinca) going to great lengths to arrange an abortion for her rather dim dorm mate Gabita (Laura Vasiliu). In addition, Otilia has to attend an event involving her suspicious boyfriend and his extended family and deal with an unwavering hotel staff in order to procure a location for Gabita's procedure. It all reaches a fever pitch when the two women try to negotiate after-the-fact conditions with the doctor (Vlad Inanov) performing the procedure.

The movie (which was summarily ignored by the Oscar-nominating committee) is initially interesting and compelling but loses points for its lack of style. For the duration, Mungiu chooses to shoot scenes from a distance or up close with next to no movement or editing. Even the most patient viewers will find this stoic and static presentation distracting and largely pointless.

If you think it might be worth your time to check it out, you should prepare yourself for the scene where Otilia returns to the hotel from her boyfriend's party just after the procedure is over. It is quite graphic, leaves little to the imagination, and will certainly shock and disturb many viewers.

Presented in Romanian with English subtitles. Opens exclusively at Landmark Midtown Art Cinema, 931 Monroe Drive, Atlanta. Call 678-495-1424 or visit www.landmarktheatres.com. (IFC)