DRAMA; 1hr 53min (Romanian with subtitles)
STARRING: Anamaria Marinca, Laura Vasiliu
Trapped: from left, Marinca and Vasiliu
In 1987 Romania, abortion is illegal under the Ceausescu dictatorship. When 22-year-old student Gabita (Vasiliu) becomes pregnant, she — like thousands of other, actual women — has no viable alternative but a dangerous illegal termination. In a climate as grey and cheerless as the barren political landscape, Gabita and her roommate, Otilia (Marinca), scrape funds to rent a soulless hotel room and hire an abortionist (Vlad Ivanov as Mr Bebe). Back-door transactions are grubby and complex, however, and the kind of man who preys on the disadvantaged and the weak is unlikely to be merciful.
Writer-director Cristian Mungiu’s austere foray into the repellent underbelly of a dehumanising era — this year’s Palme d’Or winner at Cannes — was shot on location in long, stark takes that create a pall of oppression. So naturalistic are the performances and so authentic the atmosphere that even the most innocuous scenes are weighted with doom. The ending, when it suddenly arrives, is a liberation and a relief. But the unsettling memories linger.