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With: Mimi Branescu, Maria Popistasu, Mirela Oprisor, Dragos Bucur, Victor Rebengiuc
Written by: Radu Muntean, Alexandru Baciu, Razvan Radulescu
Directed by: Radu Muntean
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Language: Romanian, with English subtitles
Running Time: 99
Date: 05/13/2010

Tuesday, After Christmas (2011)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Tree Fall

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The so-called Romanian New Wave continues with yet another terrific achievement, though Radu Muntean's Tuesday, After Christmas has more in common with the harrowing 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, than with the dark comedies The Death of Mr. Lazarescu, 12:08 East of Bucharest, and Police, Adjective. The new movie is a brutal drama with nary a bit of irony.

It opens warmly, though. Middle-aged Paul (Mimi Branescu) lounges in bed, naked, with pretty blonde Raluca (Maria Popistasu). They have presumably just had sex, and they seem to be in love. They tease one another and talk about Christmas presents. Unfortunately, Raluca is not Paul's wife.

His wife is the upright, bespectacled Adriana (Mirela Oprisor). She and Paul seem to enjoy a friendly, if not loving relationship, alongside their 9 year-old daughter Mara. Raluca is Mara's dentist, and the movie's first truly uncomfortable scene occurs when Adriana suddenly has the day off and decides to accompany her family to an appointment.

Paul realizes that something must be done, and a few days before Christmas, he suddenly tells his wife what's going on. Director Muntean lets these scenes play out in unbroken shots, giving the actors time to go through several reactions. At first Adriana seems calm. She asks questions. Then she breaks down. Then she's furious. She wants to cut off all relations with Paul. Unfortunately, Christmas is coming...

A normal movie would soften and manipulate these emotions through cuts and music. It might seem that Muntean is doing less work here, or avoiding choices, but he is very definitely making deliberate choices. Indeed, his choices seem to cut closer to the bone. Adriana's coldness, and the couple's efforts to hide their troubles until after the holidays, are absolutely shattering, even without music and dramatic angles.

Muntean also avoids other points of view. He stares directly into the face of this disintegrating relationship, without commentary from others. Paul has one friend, Cristi (Dragos Bucur, a familiar face from other Romanian films), that turns up in a couple of shots, and the most he has to say about it is: "the New Year definitely brought change to your life." The last scene, in which Paul moves into Raluca's small apartment -- so humble it doesn't even have a Christmas tree -- is quite a bit more muted; it feels numb in comparison to the ticklish quality of the opening scene.

Kino Lorber released the movie on DVD, but not on Blu-Ray. The transfer is of very fine quality, but there are no extras. If you're thinking of including this in your annual roster of holiday viewing, better check it out first.

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