Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Film Review: Tuesday, After Christmas

"Tuesday, After Christmas" **** (out of ****)

"Tuesday, After Christmas" (Marti, dupa craciun, 2010) is the latest film from Romania to hit the film festival circuit and cause a stir. I saw it at this year's Chicago International Film Festival.

A great many of the films coming from Romania have all been fiercely political. There was "12:08 East of Bucharest" (A Fost sau n-a fost, 2007), "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days" (4 luni, 3 saptamani si 2 zile, 2007), "How I Spent The End of the World" (Cum mi-am petrecut sfarsitul lumii, 2006) and the movie which started this recent "new wave" in Romanian cinema "The Death of Mr. Lazarescu" (Moartea domnului Lazarescu, 2006). But "Tuesday, After Christmas" is much different. There is absolutely no mention of politics or even social injustice.

The film follows Paul Hanganu (Mimi Branescu) who is married to Adriana (Mirela Oprisor, whom some may recognize from Francis Ford Coppola's "Youth Without Youth" (2007), they have a daughter as well. But what is not known is Paul has been having an affair with Raluca (Maria Popistasu). The rest of the film addresses Paul's dilemma in having to make a choice. He simply cannot go on leading two lives.

Some of the buzz at the film festival concerning this film has been that it is very slow and nothing happens. I heard remarks like this even from the people who liked the movie. Those that didn't like the movie told me they kept waiting for something to happen. I'm not exactly sure what these audience members were expecting though that wasn't the impression I was left with watching this film.

If by "nothing ever happens" people mean there are no explosions, fight scenes and alien battles, then, yes, they are correct. But the movie is filled with emotion. In fact I have rarely seen a movie as emotionally sincere as this. We understand Paul's predictiment. We understand what consequences his choice will have on the women in his life. There is no easy answer. I personally found that element of the film gripping. What exactly will Paul do?

The film was directed by Radu Muntean. He is one of the new faces in Romanian cinema. He directed "The Paper Will Be Blue" (2006) a film about the Romanian Revolution. It also played at the Chicago International Film Festival and unfortunately never found distribution in this country. Here though Muntean displays a true understanding for how to capture people at their most vulnerable. After Paul makes his decision I felt a certain awkwardness in the scenes which followed. He is able to capture the uneasiness within the characters and the situation.

The performances are flawless. I wouldn't change one thing about this film. Everyone comes off as natural. Each performance is believeable. We can see ourselves in these characters. Everyone reacts to situations in a realistic manner. Nothing is overdone and overblown here for dramatic license. This is life.

With the current interest in Romanian cinema I can only hope the film finds distribution in this country. I have a good feeling it will. "Tuesday, After Christmas" is a film not to be missed. The cinematography is rather simple but emotionally it is complex. The film is nothing short of brilliant.