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Tuesday, After Christmas (Radu Muntean, 2010)


Startling intimacy and keen observation redeem the familiar scenario of Tuesday, After Christmas, Romanian director Radu Muntean’s latest and most accomplished feature. Telling the seemingly trite tale of an adulterous relationship, the film is distinguished largely due to a trio of lead performances and a trio of powerhouse scenes that are treated with the utmost respect by the director. The film presents yet another example of the so-called Romanian New Wave’s ability to trump the rest of the world when it comes to creating realistic, formally controlled melodramas.


Tuesday makes its approach clear with an opening shot that lasts for about seven minutes. Here we see two of the film’s main characters naked in bed, as they have a casual, post-coital chat. It becomes immediately apparent that the man, Paul (Mimi Branescu), is married. Raluca (Maria Popistasu), the young woman, accepts this, even as her disappointment that he is not free registers. As they talk and joke with one another, the complete ease with which they converse becomes a damning indictment of the stilted familial interactions that Paul has at home. He may tolerate his wife, but it is immediately clear from this first scene that his heart lies elsewhere.


Indeed, the approach of that opening shot tells the viewer much about what is to follow. The opening’s nudity is indicative of the general level of intimacy to come. As Tuesday, After Christmas continues, we become privy to both the small details that prompt the characters’ decisions and the larger arc of their impending life changes Such a small scale creates a hunch here that things might develop into something more sensational... that violence might erupt or a character might act rash. Such a thing never happens. Muntean keeps the story on a level that is doubly effective for being more relatable. From the silent, detached looks on Paul’s face that make his discontent clear to the way that the child becomes a last-ditch bargaining chip once the affair is made clear, this is a movie that need not exaggerate circumstances for the sake of effect.


If Tuesday, After Christmas has a flaw, it is its lack of subtext. The characters here are realistic enough, yet at the same time they have been conceived with a certain single-mindedness that prevents much ambiguity from emerging. Muntean, in his efforts to show us what a civil breakdown of a civil union looks like, inevitably creates a work in which the audience’s efforts at interpretation are somewhat stunted. Still, Tuesday, After Christmas has scenes, most definitely including the extended confrontation in which Paul reveals his infidelity to his wife (Mirela Oprisor), that are sure to remain etched in the viewer’s mind, due to their raw intensity and formal rigor.



Jeremy Heilman