(Radu Muntean, 2011)
A patient, sensitive infidelity drama, Muntean's film is elevated by superb performances and a fine, insightful script.
It begins with a long scene depicting Paul (Mimi Branescu) and Raluca (Maria Popistasu) in bed together. They are natural, comfortable, plainly in love. As the scene draws on, we learn that he is a married man, that he has a child, and that she is his younger mistress. Each scene is like this to some extent. Shooting in a naturalistic master-shot style, Muntean finds his composition and allows the action to play out, sometimes in the medium distance, moving the camera rarely and never very far. Each take is lengthy, the actors handling long passages of dialogue and often quite subtle or difficult emotional states. And it builds and builds in emotional power. We observe Paul with his lover and with his family, and we watch as his discomfort with his dual life mounts. A long, incredibly awkward scene where his oblivious wife and lover meet is brilliantly done, the tension between Paul and Raluca beautifully captured through body language and a certain, barely perceptible awkwardness in the stilted words they use when they address one another. That scene is a turning point; afterwards Paul seems to realise he cannot go on this way, he must make a decision.
That in turn leads to a gruelling, magnificent scene where he and his wife battle it out. There is an honest and insightful portrait of a modern marriage here, with all its weary compromise and co-dependent partnership painfully detailed, but also a tenderness; for all his passion for his younger lover, Paul still loves Adriana (Mirela Oprisor), and does not want to hurt her.
Muntean's style here suggests authenticity without ever seeming forced or ostentatiously aiming for grittiness, and it asks a massive amount of his cast, who more than deliver. There is not a false note in any performance here. Everyone is understated, everyone is believable, their pain and confusion relatable and inimitably human.
Finally, it is quite devastating, just as suspenseful as any thriller in its emotional set-pieces, all the way to a superb, ambiguous final scene on Christmas Day.