‘Tuesday, After Christmas’ patient, affecting, and rewarding

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Tuesday, After Christmas

Directed by Radu Muntean

Romania, 2010

Patient, affecting, and rewarding, Tuesday, After Christmas, is easily identifiable as an entrant into the Romanian New Wave.

Paul (Mimi Branescu) is in love with two women, his wife Adriana (Mirela Oprisor), also the mother of his daughter, and Raluca (Maria Popistasu), their younger, more attractive dentist. With Christmas rapidly approaching, Paul’s infidelity becomes more difficult to bear, to the extent that he must decide between the two.

This is kind of like Scenes from a Marriage were it to be crosscut with an unmade sequel Scenes from an Affair. Shot like most of the major films coming out of current Romania, Tuesday, After Christmas is high-key, with real-time scenes, and ordinary locations. Dealing with social situations but in a less gruesome, urgent manner than its peer 4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days, Muntean’s film cuts infrequently. There is no coverage within a scene to speak of, and the lone scene that extends beyond one shot is the climactic, Christmas sequence.

The success of Tuesday, After Christmas, hinges less on the suspense of Paul’s decision, as it does on how he will go about it. Muntean’s choice to highlight actions in long takes emphasizes the comfort Paul finds in each situation: the familiar domesticity he experiences with Adriana, and the playful sexuality in his time spent with Raluca. The film therefore, isn’t about a marriage, an affair, or even a breakup, but instead about the danger of comfort (read: complacency) and the equal danger of change (read: unfamiliarity), where both, when seen from the outside, appear quite similar.

Paul’s decision is not telegraphed in any way, but it’s the way he chooses to vocalize it – plainly and candidly, in one of the longest takes in the film, where the painful dissolution of two so in love has no option to hide amidst edits or abrupt scenes – that elevates Tuesday, After Christmas to something new. Muntean’s tactic is to make his audience sweat out the agonizingly elongated moment alongside his characters.

Oddly, for a film that features an act so widely vilified, there’s not really a villain to be found. Adriana is the loving, cheated wife. Raluca is the young, innocent idealist. Even Paul, for all of his lies, is given the role of caring father in the final sequence and not of jilting lover. The effect is to leave the audience with a clear portrait of three people with goals and feelings, rather than a typical good-guy, bad-guy adulterous scenario.

Neal Dhand

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