Netflix, TV

We fell into Squid Game over the weekend…

In spite of the beautiful fall weather we had over the weekend, Bill and I ended up staying home on Saturday. I was sitting on the bed, flipping through Netflix, when I landed on Squid Game. I didn’t know much about it, although had seen a lot of press about it. I was initially kind of turned off by it, even not knowing anything about the story. I could see a lot of weird colors and settings in the photos and I had a feeling it was going to be bizarre.

The trailer…

But anyway, since we didn’t have anything else to do, I decided to press “play”. The show began, and Bill quickly joined me. It’s not that often that I land on something he really wants to watch. Bill is a typical guy, and he likes action and violence more than I do when he watches TV or a movie. We watched five episodes on Saturday and the remaining four last night. I thought I would have nightmares, like I did after I watched The Handmaid’s Tale. To my great surprise, no bad dreams haunted me last night or the night before, although I do remember that Saturday’s dreams were pretty busy and vivid.

At first, I wasn’t sure that I’d be interested in Squid Game, even as the series began. But then I was intrigued by the very American sounding voices that were dubbed into the original Korean. And then, the actual premise hooked me, even as I was absolutely horrified by the violence and dark themes.

There they were, all of these Koreans, basically tricked to going to a hellhole, where they are forced to play children’s games. They were there because almost all of them desperately needed money to pay off debts they otherwise could never repay. The payoff for success is a huge pot of money, dumped into an enormous piggy bank that is suspended over the players. Not succeeding means death– quick and sure, with a single shot to the head or chest. It’s brutal and shocking, and ultimately kind of sad. But then there are interesting quirks and twists, and a few comic elements. Plus, there’s a lot of symbolism and uses of color to make the show even more visually appealing and intriguing.

I don’t want to get too much into the plot about this series, because I know a lot of people are still watching it or haven’t seen it. I don’t want to spoil the ending. Do I think you should watch it? Well, that all depends…

In some ways, I think Squid Game is as dark and dystopian as The Handmaid’s Tale is. It’s certainly very violent as it makes a point about the relentless pursuit of wealth. I had some flashes of depression and shock as I watched the players suffer and the tensions build as each one was dispatched, with no thought at all for the people left behind and the witnesses. With each death, a cheery female voice announces that the player has been eliminated. It’s jarring, and surreal.

But on the other hand, as the story progresses, some depth and wisdom emerges. The main character, who was kind of a careless loser at the beginning of the series, develops some decency and turns into a man. It wasn’t unlike the character of Zack Mayo in An Officer and a Gentleman. He starts off as a callous jerk, who doesn’t care about anyone but himself. By the end of the film, he’s developed heart, courage, leadership, and decency. That part of the story appealed to my heart, even as it was broken watching all of the carnage.

Indeed, at the end of the series, we see that the game continues, with new players… not unlike officer’s training school continues in An Officer and a Gentleman, when Gunnery Sergeant Foley delivers his spiel to new recruits. The difference is, of course, most people either get through officer’s training just fine, or they decide to quit. Losers in Squid Game die. And it’s all for the mighty pursuit of money.

I had no idea how serious the debt problem in South Korea is. I suppose that’s another reason why so many Americans are drawn to this series. I think debt is a serious problem in the United States, too. It’s so easy to fall into it, and so hard to get out of it. I could see how some people would be attracted to play a game that would lead to their early deaths. Of course, there were a few times when I had to suspend disbelief. For instance, I wondered how the game could continue, when so many people played it and suddenly disappeared. Wouldn’t people wonder where hundreds of their friends and family members disappeared to with each new round?

Teasing is fun sometimes.

But I also know that people love a good fantasy… Squid Game is a good fantasy, I guess. Some of it is downright creepy and weird, and I marveled at how someone came up with this story, with its twists and turns and special effects. I also thought the actors were great. I found myself wanting to learn more about Korea. The series made it look like such a cool culture.

I was once offered a job teaching English in South Korea. I decided not to take it. There were a few reasons for that. I did kind of feel sad about turning down the job, since I thought it would be exciting and interesting. But I had student loans to pay, and I worried that I wouldn’t be able to make it on what the school would pay me. Also, I didn’t know if I would appreciate the lifestyle in South Korea, or the culture. Now that I’ve watched Squid Game, I think I’d like to know more.

Anyway… I definitely think Squid Game is an interesting series. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone who is disturbed by gratuitous violence. I’m glad I watched it. I’m not sure if I would want to watch another season of it… I wouldn’t be surprised if one materializes, though, since I think it’s going to make Netflix a lot of money. But the creator has already said that if he does make another season, he would use other writers and directors. I’ve seen what happens when new people come in and change a show’s vision. It’s not always good. On the other hand, Bill told me the director lost six teeth making the first season. Teeth are a terrible thing to waste.

Now that I’ve seen Squid Game, I may have to learn more about that part of the world… I’ve already read a lot about North Korea. Maybe it’s time I read more about the southern part of the Korean peninsula. I still don’t know if I want to visit, though. I definitely wouldn’t want to be playing Squid Game myself. It’s amazing what’s coming out on television these days. I grew up in an era when we were all happy with cookie cutter sit-coms.

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Netflix, true crime, TV

Dirty John: The Betty Broderick Story…

This week, I binge watched Dirty John: The Betty Broderick Story. This is the second season of the Netflix series, which I had never heard of until I noticed so many people hitting my reposted review of Nanette Elkins’ book about Kim Broderick. Netflix decided to turn Betty and Dan Broderick’s sordid story into an eight part series. Amanda Peet stars as the older version of Betty, while Christian Slater impressively portrays Dan Broderick.

A 1992 era Oprah Winfrey interview about Betty Broderick’s children.

I found the show pretty compelling, and weirdly comical at some points. The fact that Betty and Dan’s story has turned into entertainment should probably disturb me. I have to admit that Betty Broderick is a fascinating character, though. Lots of people have held her up as a heroine to divorced women who get “shafted” when their powerful husbands dump them for someone younger. In Dan Broderick’s case, it was Linda Kolkena, who had been Dan’s pretty secretary. In Dirty John, she’s played by Rachel Keller. Funnily enough, Rachel Keller wasn’t even born when this crime happened, back in 1989.

I’m not sure why this story out of so many was chosen to be highlighted on Dirty John, but people are obviously intrigued by it. Based on what I’ve read about the Brodericks, both Dan and Betty seemed to be self-absorbed and unkind to each other. Here was Dan Broderick, a brilliant doctor turned lawyer, who made lots of money after his first wife worked to put him through school. And Betty was a great housewife and mom who went nuts when Dan decided he loved someone else. And here was Linda, a so-called “homewrecker”, carrying on with an obviously married man.

On one hand, I can see why Betty Broderick went a bit crazy. She put everything into her marriage and her image… and it seemed like it was all suddenly taken from her. On the other hand, there is absolutely no justification for her decision to kill her ex husband and his second wife, even though it does seem like he abused his powers as an attorney. Or, at least that was how it was portrayed on the show. But let’s think about this. Betty Broderick did some legitimately crazy things. She harassed her ex husband and his wife. She drove her car into his house, ruined his clothes, and mashed Boston Cream Pie all over the bed.

America’s “messiest” divorce.

My husband was married to a woman who never went as far as Betty Broderick did, in terms of being destructive to objects. However, she did her very best to ruin his relationships with other people, and she told outrageous lies about him, and me– a woman she’s never even met in person. So, when Rachel Keller as Linda Kolkena says, “What I’ve seen, I don’t like.” as Betty’s friend tries to get her to give up Betty’s wedding china, I can definitely relate. Being a woman in that position is infuriating and nerve wracking. Granted, Linda had an affair with Dan, while I didn’t start dating Bill until a year after he was divorced, but I still can’t say I condone the way Betty behaved. It was crazy! Even her children thought so, which you can hear in Oprah’s interview above. And no matter what, she had no right to commit murder.

But… as I watched the Netflix series and saw the courtroom antics and the heavy fines Dan tried to levy on his ex wife, I can also see how frustrated and angry she became. It might have seemed like there wasn’t another choice. I know from personal experience that mental illness can really screw up your thinking. I don’t think Betty would have committed murder if she wasn’t legitimately sick. I don’t know what she’s like today, having been locked up for so many years. It’s also hard for me to tell if she was always a little bit disordered or this was something that came on suddenly, in the wake of Dan’s betrayal. The movies and books make it seem like it was kind of a sudden thing, but I have a hard time believing that this kind of behavior came out of nowhere. Only the people who know Betty well can say for sure, though.

Listening to Betty’s children on Oprah’s show reminds me of Bill’s conversations with his daughter. There was a time when she was the most estranged of the three kids Bill claimed as his– as Ex’s eldest son was actually her first husband’s child. But now, she is the only one who talks to Bill, and the more they speak openly and honestly, the clearer the picture becomes on how everyone is treated in Ex’s family. If you see what she puts online, it looks like she’s this very positive, affirming person. But if you know her more intimately, the truth emerges. I suspect that a similar dynamic was present in Betty’s family. Especially when I read and hear about some of the really over the top things she did, like leave her children at Dan’s house in a rage.

Trailer for Dirty John: The Betty Broderick Story…

As everybody knows, people like to armchair quarterback things. Lots of people take sides of an issue in the media based on their own experiences. I’m probably more sympathetic to Dan and Linda because they turned out to be murder victims and I am married to a man who was extremely alienated from his children after a divorce. Of course, in Bill’s situation, the divorce was initiated by his ex wife. And it turned out she hadn’t actually wanted to divorce; it was just a ploy to gain more control and humiliate Bill. She never expected that he would agree to splitting up and decided to punish him (and a lot of other innocent people) for it.

In Betty’s case, it was Dan who decided to divorce, and after he’d had an affair. I know I would be hurt and angry if Bill ever did that to me. It’s very disrespectful, especially given that Betty’s help was a large part of why Dan eventually became so successful. I don’t think Dan Broderick was a saint at all. He definitely did a lot of “dickish” things. But he didn’t deserve to be murdered, and neither did his wife, who had never made any vows to Betty. I think the worst thing Linda did was not insist on waiting until Dan was divorced until she had a relationship with him. Of course, if she had done that, she might never have married him, since Betty was very much an obstructionist when it came to the break up. And when you’re in love, sometimes you don’t make the best decisions. I suspect that if Linda hadn’t been murdered, she would have wound up divorced from Dan, too. It’s been my observation that a lot of people who have affairs repeat them in subsequent marriages. Dan seemed to be very concerned about his image and appeared narcissistic to me. He probably would have wanted a younger woman as Linda aged.

Meredith Baxter on playing Betty Broderick.

Anyway… I feel a little bad having enjoyed Dirty John: The Betty Broderick Story. Two people died for that story. Maybe we shouldn’t turn such tales into entertainment for the masses, complete with songs by Cyndi Lauper, Laura Branigan, and Howard Jones. I did really like the soundtrack and even downloaded a couple of Lauper’s albums. I think Amanda Peet did a good job playing Betty. She was more sympathetic than Meredith Baxter was thirty years ago, when she played Betty in the two made for TV movies about her. I also really enjoyed watching Christian Slater. It’s hard to believe he’s the same guy who played Binx in the 1985 film, The Legend of Billie Jean (a truly ridiculous but entertaining movie). But then, it’s also hard to believe that Bradley Whitford, who plays Commander Lawrence in The Handmaid’s Tale, also famously played Elisabeth Shue’s jerky boyfriend in the 1987 film, Adventures in Babysitting. It’s always nice to see actors evolve over the years!

I guess now that I’ve seen the second season of Dirty John, I’ll go ahead and watch the first. In just five days, I’ll be all set to emerge from the COVID-19 quarantine cocoon. I hope it doesn’t blow my mind.

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book reviews, true crime

Repost: A review of Until the Twelfth of Never- Should Betty Broderick Ever Be Free?

Yesterday, I started watching the Netflix show, Dirty John- The Betty Broderick Story. I was not familiar with the show until recently, when I noticed that my reposted review of a book about Betty’s daughter, Kim, was getting tons of hits. I investigated, and finally found out about the second season of the original Netflix drama. Season 2 is about Betty Broderick, who famously murdered her physician attorney ex husband and his new wife, Linda Kolkhena Broderick, in 1989.

Betty Broderick is a controversial figure. Lots of books, blog posts, and messageboard posts have been written about her. She’s been the subject of made for television movies starring Meredith Baxter and Stephen Collins. Lots of women held Betty up as a heroine, even though she’s in prison. Personally, I empathize with Betty’s story, but I think she is (or was) mentally ill, and she definitely had no right to kill her ex husband and his second wife. No matter what a scumbag Dan Broderick might have been, that does not give anyone the right to murder him. Also, as a second wife myself, I had empathy for Linda Kolkhena Broderick, even if I don’t condone dating a married man. The fact is, she didn’t make a vow to Betty; Dan did.

Anyway… I have read and reviewed a couple of books about Betty Broderick, so I am going to repost them today. The first review is a book by Bella Stumbo, which was used as a basis for the Dirty John series. I reviewed it on August 29, 2014, and my thoughts are presented as/is here.

I purchased the late Bella Stumbo’s book, the exhaustive Until the Twelfth of Never- Should Betty Broderick Ever Be Free? in April of this year (2014).  I have just now gotten around to reading it.  I normally breeze through books in a matter of days, but this one took me about three weeks to finish.  This book is the story of the tragic relationship between former San Diego malpractice attorney Dan Broderick and his first wife, Betty.  It’s one of several books written about this controversial case of an enraged woman scorned who resorts to murdering her ex husband and his second wife.

I must admit to being something fascinated by Betty Broderick.  She was born and raised in New York State, the daughter of respectable Catholic parents who had brought her up on the idea that being a wife and a mother was of utmost importance.  When Betty and Dan married in April 1969, it looked like Betty was going to be one of those women who married well.  Dan had graduated from medical school and then decided to become a lawyer.  Given his dual degrees in medicine and law, he was a powerful force in a courtroom.  He became very successful and was quite wealthy by the time he died at the hands of his ex wife and mother of his four children, Betty.

Betty Broderick had been a beautiful, educated, gracious woman.  By her account, she had helped Dan Broderick become the success that he was.  Dan repaid her by fooling around with his 21 year old secretary, Linda, then deciding that he wanted to dump Betty for Linda.  Dan’s actions enraged Betty, who began to refer to Dan and Linda in the most vile, vulgar terms possible.  She also vandalized Dan’s home and possessions, ruining his clothes, smearing Boston Creme pie on his bed, and driving her vehicle into his house.  Dan retaliated by fining Betty, refusing to give her access to their children, and using his extensive legal training to keep her from getting what she felt she was owed.

Things got to a fever pitch on November 5, 1989.  Betty went to Dan’s and Linda’s home with a gun.  She shot them as they slept, then ripped the phone from the wall.  She was tried twice; the first trial ended with a hung jury.  She was convicted during the second trial and sentenced to 32 years in prison, where she remains today.

Bella Stumbo wrote Until the Twelfth of Never years ago, but it has been updated with the edition I own.  There is an analysis of Betty’s handwriting included as well as some statements by friends of Dan Broderick’s.  I’m not sure the extra material made this book better.  Frankly, I thought it was way too long and, at times, rather redundant.  Stumbo includes a lot of detail in this book, but some of it was probably better left omitted.  For example, I don’t need to be reminded umpteen times how profane Betty was when she called Dan on the phone.  But Stumbo included a number of transcripts that explicitly spell out the filthy language Betty uses to the point at which it becomes tiresome.

I did think that Stumbo did a good job in presenting a somewhat even look at Dan and Betty Broderick, although if I had to guess, I would guess Stumbo was slightly more sympathetic to Betty over Dan.  To be sure, Dan Broderick comes across as a real jerk in the seemingly callous way he dealt with his ex wife.  However, Betty Broderick had absolutely no right to kill her ex husband and his wife, Linda.  Had the gender roles in this case been reversed, I seriously doubt people would sympathize with Dan and claim he was driven to kill, no matter how awful Betty was to him.  I’m not one of those people who thinks women should get a break when they turn murderous.  Betty Broderick was not being threatened when she killed.  Dan and Linda were sleeping when she shot them.  There is no other reason why Betty should be in prison now, other than because of her own selfish actions.  At the same time, I did have some empathy for her on one level.  It does sound like her ex husband was a jerk.

I thought the information Stumbo included about Betty’s behavior in jail was interesting.  Apparently, Betty Broderick’s antics in 1991 were so outrageous that they upstaged news about the fall of the Soviet Union.

Bella Stumbo’s Until the Twelfth of Never is basically well-written, but I think it could use an editor.  It’s maybe 100-150 pages too long, does not include any photos, and there are some typos that could be corrected.  I’m kind of relieved to be finished with this book because I’m ready to move on to the next subject, but I would recommend it to those who are interested in the war of the Brodericks.  Just be prepared to read for a long time.

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homosexuality, movies

Repost: Review of the film Men In The Nude…

As long as I’m writing about foreign films, here’s a review I wrote for Epinions in 2011 about the 2006 Hungarian movie, Men in the Nude. If I recall correctly, when I posted this review on Facebook, I lost at least one Facebook friend.  Fortunately, he wasn’t actually a friend.  I guess the guy was offended by the words “homosexual experimentation”.  I should watch more foreign films.  They are interesting, even if I do have to read the subtitles.  By the way, this wasn’t a porn film. My review appears here “as/is”.

Writer’s block plus mid life crisis equals homosexual experimentation

I’m not quite sure how I ended up with the 2006 Hungarian art film Men in the Nude in my Netflix queue.  I think I might have added it because I watched a few interesting Romanian films last year and wondered if I’d like Hungarian cinema as much.  In any case, having had this DVD in my possession for the past couple of weeks, I finally sat down to watch it.  It’s entirely in Hungarian, so actually watching the film is a must to get the gist of what’s going on.  There are subtitles at the bottom of the screen. 

The story

The film starts off promising enough, with a shot of the iconic Budapest train station.  Having walked around there with my husband Bill, I immediately felt oriented.  Then, once the setting shifts to a Hungarian restaurant where our protagonist, Tibor (László Gálffi), is on the phone with his wife (Éva Kerekes), things are less familiar.

Tibor is a writer and has been on the road promoting his book.  He’s suffering from writer’s block and appears to be pretty bored with his life.  After ringing off his cell phone and paying the check at the restaurant, he goes to a large bookstore where his book is being sold.  He listens to a Schubert CD and gazes at a table filled with copies of his latest book.  Suddenly, he is confronted by a young, blond, charismatic looking man who asks him to inscribe a copy of the book.  After Tibor writes a dedication, the man goes to pay for the book, but “conveniently” has no money.  Tibor offers to pay for it as the young man runs out of the store, setting off alarms.  He has stolen the Schubert disc as “repayment” for Tibor’s generosity.

Tibor later learns that his admirer is a 19 year old male prostitute named Zsolt (Dávid Szabó).  Though Tibor is married to a woman and lives a straight life, he is drawn in by Zsolt’s charisma.  The two begin a relationship and suddenly Tibor is able to write again.  Tibor becomes alive through his fling with Zsolt, who excites him and inspires his creativity.  Things become complicated when his wife, a blonde, narcissistic, has-been actress discovers their affair. 

My thoughts

Initially, I was kind of interested in this film.  The story is certainly intriguing, especially for a straight, American woman like me who has little experience with films involving homosexual relationships.  I thought Dávid Szabó was very watchable and seductive in his portrayal of Zsolt.  I could see why Tibor, a man who had always considered himself heterosexual, would be lured by his charms.  Szabó seems to have mastered “come hither” looks.  He has a beautiful, androgynous look to him and expertly flirts with the camera and Tibor.

About halfway through the film, my attention began to wane.  I started to notice how cheesy the soundtrack was, aside from the classical pieces that were included.  I lost interest in the story.  The sex scenes were not as fascinating and I started wondering when the film was going to end, even though it runs for a respectably brief 90 minutes or so. 

Nudity

Though there is some nudity in this film, it’s mostly very tasteful.  I don’t remember seeing any full frontal nudity, though there are plenty of naked bum shots and at least one shot of a topless woman.  There are both heterosexual and homosexual sex scenes as well.  I looked up this film on Amazon.com and noticed that the suggestive sell efforts seemed to point toward gay skin flicks.  I would say this movie is more like an indie art film than a skin flick.  Don’t be fooled by the cover art on the DVD.  It’s definitely not pornography. 

Overall

I’m glad I watched this film because I like to broaden my experiences with foreign films.  Even a badly done foreign film can be more intriguing than a lot of American films.  That being said, this movie did not hold my attention like the Romanian films I watched last year that inspired me to broaden my movie repertoire.  I’m sure some viewers will get caught up in the story and get more out of Men in the Nude than I did.  For me, this film was just “eh”.

Men in the Nude is not rated.  It was directed and written by Károly Esztergályos.

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movies

I watched 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days again yesterday… it reminded me of why legalized abortion is important.

Yesterday’s reposts made me want to watch a Romanian movie I’ve seen a couple of times already. I have discovered that Romania has put out some truly excellent films, even though I have to watch them with subtitles. But I’ve seen several now, and have even purchased a few for my library. The first time I had ever seen the film I saw yesterday, entitled 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, it was a random Netflix DVD I rented some years ago. The first time I saw it, I was astonished by the movie, which was made in 2007.

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days is set in an unnamed university town in Romania during the year 1987. Communism is still alive and well in Eastern Europe. Nicolae Ceaușescu is the president of the country, and rules it with an iron fist. In 1987 era Romania, Ceaușescu has forbidden abortions in almost every case. Contraception is also forbidden, and women are forced to visit gynecologists regularly to check for pregnancies. Viewers hear that rule referred to as Otilia talks about when she had her last period. However, even though abortion is punishable by years in a prison cell, women still access it by way of enlisting the services of illegal abortionists. Otherwise, they may find themselves raising children they can’t afford. In the 1990s, Romania was notorious for the number of babies it had in orphanages. Many of those babies grew up to be unable to assimilate in society because they were never properly socialized or cared for when they were infants. And some were born with diseases like AIDS. Women in Ceausescu’s era were expected to have children– at times, up to four or five of them– so that Ceausescu’s regime would always be supplied with fresh souls. It didn’t matter that there wasn’t enough available to support all of those babies being born into his regime.

A trailer for Four Months, Three Weeks, and Two Days…

Gabita (Laura Vasiliu) and Otilia (Anamaria Marinca) are roommates at the university in the unnamed Romanian town. They share a drab dormitory room on a co-ed hall. Gabita is pregnant. She’s shy, and seems to need looking after by Otilia, who seems to be more of a motherly type. Otilia takes care of her roommate, buying her soap and cigarettes from the campus shop, and bringing milk powder to a friend who has found kittens in the dorm’s boiler room. She’d like to take one, but Gabita is allergic to cats.

Gabita complains about a toothache, while Otilia tells her she’ll survive until after Saturday, when they’ve done the deed. The abortionist, a man named Viorel Bede (Vlad Ivanov) has given explicit instructions to Gabita on booking a room at one of two hotels in town. He has also told her what to bring with her. However, Gabita fails to get a room in the right hotel. Otilia ends up booking a much more expensive room at a different hotel. She deals with the unfriendly receptionist at Bede’s preferred hotel, who tells her the rooms are completely booked. Otilia also meets Bede, in Gabita’s stead, which makes him very nervous as he explains that if the authorities ever find out what they are doing, all three of them will go to prison.

At the hotel– the one Bede didn’t prefer– they’ve all left their identification with the front desk. They are told to leave the room key when they go out. The decor is strictly 1987, complete with primitive looking rotary dial phones. I had one in my first Armenian apartment that looked just like the one used in this film. Bede examines Gabita, realizing that she’s much further along in her pregnancy than she had told him. He explains that he will have to do a different procedure that will cost more. Since the women don’t have enough money to pay Bede, he says both women must have sex with him to make up the difference. When they balk at that idea, Bede reminds them that he’s not the one who needs help.

Otilia goes first, and we see her come into the bathroom afterwards, naked from the waist down as she climbs into the bathtub, looking wan and sick as she hoses herself off. Gabita has neglected to bring the plastic sheet Bede told her to bring, so she must cut a plastic bag and use it to protect the bed as Bede performs the abortion. After he’s finished, Bede gives Gabita instructions. He tells her to be very careful of infection, and if one should develop and she needs to see a doctor, not to deny having been pregnant. Lying about the pregnancy is a surefire way to land in prison, while claiming she didn’t know may result in the authorities looking the other way.

While Gabita waits, lying perfectly still and waiting for the fetus to die, Otilia visits her boyfriend and his family, who are having a party. Otilia is not in a good mood and doesn’t want to visit her boyfriend or hang out with his family. She’s just been through something horrific. But she can’t tell him about it. After staying just long enough to be polite, Otilia leaves. Her boyfriend is confused and upset when Otilia goes, but Otilia must get back to her friend. She’s a motherly sort, and concerned that Gabita needs her.

When Otilia arrives at the hotel, Gabita is covered up, sound asleep in bed. Otilia wakes her and Gabita says she got “rid” of it. Otilia finds the tiny, bloody, fetus lying on the bathroom floor. I will warn that this is not an easy scene to watch, and it lasts about fifteen seconds. Otilia is horrified by the sight of the dead fetus, but Gabita just seems relieved that the abortion is over. Gabita still asks her friend to bury the fetus for her, and Otilia obliges. She comes back to find Gabita in the restaurant, “starving”. There’s a wedding going on, so the food in the restaurant is what was being served at the wedding. Otilia is completely sickened by what she and her friend have been through… and Gabita, who had been the one to have the abortion, just seems numb.

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days is an interesting film for so many reasons. First off, it’s set in a time that wasn’t that long ago, but seems like it was ages ago. I was fifteen years old in 1987, and at that time, it seemed like communism would go on forever. Ceausescu was still very much in charge of Romania, and the threat of prison for abortion was very real. No one could know that in just two years, the Ceausescu regime would suddenly fall with the bang of the guns used to execute both Ceausescu and his wife, Elena.

Although this film is set in 1987, it’s still a useful subject for the present time. Today, in 2021, there are still people trying to stop women from having abortions. Governor Greg Abbott, of Texas, just signed a “heartbeat law”, which bans abortion for any woman who is more than six weeks along in her pregnancy. I find it interesting that a man who presides over a state that is very proud of its record on executing people on death row is claiming that Texas is a “pro-life” state. I also find it interesting that when a fetus is in utero, a heartbeat is a signal of life, whereas in people who have been born already, it takes brainwaves to prove life. But I digress. Texas’s new law allows private citizens to sue abortion providers who offer services to anyone more than six weeks pregnant, in which the fetus has a detectable heartbeat. The person suing would not have to have a connection to the person who had an abortion to sue.

There was a time in the United States when women who wanted to have an abortion had to sneak around and find someone like Bede to do the job. There’s no telling how many of those women were also coerced into providing sexual favors, too. I think about all of the heartbreaking situations a pregnant person might find themselves in that would make them want to seek to terminate a pregnancy. I think of how many of those situations are simply no one else’s business at all… actually, I would say that 100% of those situations are no one else’s business. But we still have so many politicians– many of them men, who will never have to deal with the consequences of an unintended pregnancy– trying to push these laws that will victimize women and endanger their health. And so many of these same politicians don’t want to do a damned thing for those babies, once they’ve been born.

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days is not an easy film to watch. It’s entirely in Romanian, so you have to pay attention to the film if you don’t know the language. The setting is bleak; there is no musical score; and the subject matter is depressing. However, I think it’s a very powerful film. Regardless of what I think of abortion on a personal level, I believe that people who want them will be determined to get them. They will put themselves at great risk and contribute to criminal behavior. And the babies born that survive botched abortion attempts may end up being a burden to society. Perhaps most importantly, the women who have money will still be able to have safe, legal abortions and will access them. Poor women– the one’s least able to support raising a child– will be the ones who suffer the most under this legislation. They will be the ones who might find themselves in the hellish situation Otilia and Gabita were in, as a man who provides abortions demands sexual favors from them before he does the procedure in less than hygienic and safe surroundings.

A link to the full movie.

I would recommend 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days to anyone who is interested in Romanian cinema. But I would also recommend it to those who need a reminder of why it’s best to let pregnant people make decisions for themselves, whether or not they wish to continue gestating fetuses. But if you do choose to watch this film, be prepared for the heavy emotional message. It’s definitely not a cheerful film, despite its powerful and necessary message. In any case, this story is one that reminds me of why I will always be in favor of contraceptives and legalized abortion.

Incidentally, since abortion and contraception have become legal in Romania, the number of women seeking abortions has gone down exponentially.

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