Classics of the New Millennium: "4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days" with Dana Stevens

Slate's film critic and I discuss the powerful 2007 Romanian drama about abortion, friendship, and everyday sainthood.

Classics of the New Millennium: "4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days" with Dana Stevens

When Cristian Mungiu’s “4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days” won the Palme d’Or at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival — the first Romanian film to ever win the festival’s top prize — it was, among other things, a frightening look back to the 1980s, when abortion under the Ceausescu dictatorship was severely criminalized and women were forced into a predatory black market of back-alley abortionists. In 2023, of course, the film looks like nothing so much as the day after tomorrow in nearly half the states in our own country. So, yes, “4 Months” should be seen by every young woman (and man) (and politician) as a cautionary tale hovering ever closer to home, but as Dana Stevens and I discuss in this podcast, it’s also one of the great movies about friendship — about how far a woman might go to help a girlfriend in trouble, even if that girlfriend might be an unreliable pill — and about when simple human kindness starts to acquire a nobility all the more moving for going unrecognized. In the role of that friend, Otilia, the unforgettable Anamaria Marinca has the face of a shopworn Modigliani, and if you’ve seen the film, it’s likely the dinner party scene that sticks in your mind, Otilia surrounded by banal chatter as she gazes into the void where a society’s decency should be.

If you haven’t seen the film, it’s a $4 rental on AppleTV and Amazon and streaming at AMC+ and Kanopy. You may want to give it a watch before listening to this discussion between me and Dana Stevens, who has been a witty and  erudite film critic for Slate since 2006 and who last year published the acclaimed biography/cultural history “Camera Man: Buster Keaton, the Dawn of Cinema, and the Invention of the Twentieth Century.” Asked to pick her favorite film from the new century, Dana chose “4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days,” and she brings a sharp and empathetic eye to a movie that, sadly, is never not relevant .

Our conversation is available on YouTube as well with the addition of a few short clips.

Note: The Watch List will take a brief hiatus while I recover from a medical procedure. Nothing too serious, thanks, but I’ll be out of commission for a week or so.

Thanks for listening! Have any thoughts? Want to suggest a movie for this series? Don’t hesitate to weigh in.

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