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Romania, 1987, the brutal Ceausescu communist regime is in place; birth control is illegal and abortion is a crime punishable by death. Gabita (Laura Vasliu) is almost five months into an unwanted pregnancy and in meek desperation turns to her friend and roommate, Otilia (Anamaria Marinca) for help in organizing an illegal termination. Unfortunate circumstances force the two women to use a male abortionist, Bebe (Vlad Ivanor), who, in addition to an absurd amount of money, also demands sex with both women as payment. The bleakness of the storyline expresses a dark socio-political critique in the twilight years of a repressive dictatorship. Written by
Winner of last years Palme d'Or this Romanian film set in the eighties and is a cross between Richard Linklater's 2001 film 'Tape', in that the majority of the action takes place in one room between three central characters and Mike Leigh's 2004 film 'Vera Drake' in that its central theme is illegal abortion. It is a film about the human condition, trust, betrayal, the extremes people have to go to sometimes and the consequences that follow certain actions. It has two great performances from the college roommates Otilia and Gabita from their introduction to us as they make plans for a trip through to the grizzly outcome that concludes the film. The setting is grim and the bleached out film stock adds to the jittery camera work and gives an uneasy feeling throughout, instantly you are transported to a time where people barter with tic tacs, cigarettes and powdered milk and the promise of sugar is a dream to many and a reality to only a few. Gabita's predicament and subsequent journey both physically and mentally are what drives the film but its shown mainly through the eyes of her friend and roommate Otilia who as well as making and carrying out the arrangements has to make some startling sacrifices and ones that she will have memory of forever, as will you the audience long after the film has finished. Although not an easy watch and considering the subject matter not something you can say you 'enjoyed' it is none the less a brilliant piece of film-making, subtle and emotive with very real character studies. A brutal in your face look at a bleak time in history, how a leader destroyed the economy of a country and what that did to everyday life and a reminder of how far behind the rest of us Eastern Europe was before the fall of the Iron curtain and particularly Romania before the Revolution of 1989.
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