Tuesday, After Christmas is the sort of film that dwells so far into the mundane that one could misinterpret its intent as slight. But upon closer examination, the picture’s minimalist approach enhances the gravity of the proceedings, whereupon the triviality of marital infidelity serves to speak to a larger worldview. This is the key characteristic found in the Romanian New Wave films I’ve encountered, whereupon films like Cristian Mungiu’s 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days and Corneliu Porumboiu’s Police, Adjective convey a sense of universality within their realistic and bare frameworks. The former film was far more effective than the latter, as the stripped-down minimalism of 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days aroused a sense of tension that was built from frame to frame. Tuesday, After Christmas functions in a similar manner as Mungiu’s film, as the sparse takes (it couldn’t have been more than a few dozen) and stationary camera allows the audience to enter the mental framework of its characters.
There’s a rhythm that Tuesday, After Christmas subscribes to that instills anxiety. From its opening pillow talk scene to experiencing the mundanity of a holiday shopping, Muntean develops a pattern in which he frames sequences. This rhythmic pattern enables the audience to become fully entrenched in the emotional gravity of the film’s lead character, whereupon the weight of his adultery towers over him. While there’s not a grand juxtaposition between Paul’s (Mimi Branescu) time between his mistress and wife, there are subtle touches in between scenes where you sense Paul’s growing complacency and detachment to his wife and child.
Of course a film of this nature is hardly new cinematic territory, but the sheer simplicity of Muntean’s approach enables the picture to feel fresh and keen in its observations. Muntean strips away any sense of extravagance, leaving only the bare essentials. The film’s organic development moves less like a narrative arch and more like an observation of real people. This sense of realism heightens the slightest adjustment in the tone (and the adjustments can be minimal), wherein one grows more and more vested in the approaching disintegration of a family. But perhaps most telling is that Muntean doesn’t express this as a world-crushing moment. Instead, it’s an experience where those involved are wounded, but walk away. Still, Muntean takes a wise gamble in his third act, where the absence of a character serves to underscore how marriage and family can be redefined based on a social situation. For a film that dwells in the mundane, the unpredictability and emotional command that Muntean maintains makes for a bracing experience.