Adultery, Without the Heat, in Tuesday, After Christmas


Tuesday, After Christmas opens on angelically blonde and postcoital Maria Popistasu sprawled nude in bed, daylight streaming through her curtains. After this flash of beauty, Radu Muntean’s fourth feature is unrelentingly mundane, as if made with the sole purpose of draining the topic of adultery of any prurient interest, the kisses accompanied by smacking sounds to smother any erotic response. Paul (Mimi Branescu) keeps up homefront appearances with wife, Adriana (Mirela Oprisor), but he’s “in love” with Raluca (Popistasu), the dentist about 10 years his junior who’s putting braces on his daughter. Goonish and sulky, Paul is hardly an advertisement for heterosexuality; one scene has his wife shearing his hair while he slouches, naked and lumpen, like a big child. The movie is set over just a few days, played out in just a few more long takes. With no merciful cutaway in sight, Oprisor and Popistasu give performances of pained veracity (Adriana telling Paul, “You’re my biggest disappointment ever” is dagger-sharp). The motives for Paul’s straying are presumably routine trading-up; the dialogue is steadily banal, largely concerned with the upcoming holiday—who’s getting what for whom, scheduling concerns. The warts-and-all frankness hides a kind of overcaution. Every possible turnoff into melodrama is passed—into humor and sentiment, too—until Muntean achieves the dubious perfection of never violating his defined parameters of peepshow realism.

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