The comradery of two friends gets tested in this gut wrenching Romanian drama from writer/director Cristian Mingiu. When one of the two young women, Gabriela, (Laura Vasiliu) reluctantly procures the services of a shady abortionist named Mr. Bebe (Vlad Ivanov), her closest friend, Otilia, (Anamaria Marinca) who she innocently lies is "her sister" also becomes involved in her dilemma. Having put off the procedure for far too long, Gabriela is particularly vulnerable and desperate. Being in her fourth month of pregnancy, she faces not only criminal prosecution in Romania for the abortion but also for homicide, a fact that Mr. Bebe is all to aware of and eager to exploit.
Unflinching, unsentimental, and utterly unforgiving, this sparse feature addresses the circumstances of these two women, which grow continuously more bleak and disturbing, with very blatant language and a casual visual style. Perhaps the most strongly impacting scene is the moment in which the two women negotiate the terms of their agreement with Mr. Bebe, who bluntly and unapologetically lays out the potential dangers and costs of what he is going to do. There's nowhere to hide in this fly-on-the-wall film style and at times it can be absolutely ghastly to watch. No sooner does the immediate conflict end when we're faced with all kinds of emotionally impacting ramifications, many of which play out most painfully in silence. Watching the loyal but broken Otilia stare blankly out at people, clearly processing all that she's been experiencing, slowly and with great remorse, eclipses nearly all the beautifully articulated dialogue in the film. The movie, quite simply, has a gnawing quality that unnerves and electrifies its audience without every growing above a whisper. Its quiet only accentuates the bare, raw quality at work here, depicting an instant of trauma from start to finish with no attempt to either soften or sharpen the blow. It simply is. And what it is is absolutely remarkable.