The Romanian writer-director Corneliu Porumboiu's low-key policier is an intriguing film, part procedural, part philosophical debate, part cry for help.
Its notional hero is a stolid young police detective, Cristi (Dragos Bucur), whose latest assignment involves traipsing after a kid suspected of drug-dealing; long, long scenes of waiting and walking reveal more of the glum, featureless streets of Vaslui than we could ever wish to see again. The drug-dealing is very small beer – it's just a bit of juvenile dope-smoking, which Cristi would tolerate, having seen much the same thing go unprosecuted when in Prague. This is about as unheroic as police work gets, and yet we realise by degrees that Cristi is more thoughtful than his dreary routines suggest. At home he has droll arguments with his wife about the exact meaning of a pop song she's been listening to. But the intricacies of language come home to roost when the station captain summons him to his office to ask why he's not made any arrest in the case. This key scene becomes tense, even excruciating, as Cristi is forced to recite dictionary definitions of "conscience" and "law" to his pedantic superior, illustrating the bureaucatic vindictiveness that still circulates like poison in the Romanian system. One has to endure some mighty longueurs to get to the meat of this film, and even once it does it lacks the emotional clout of his fellow countrymen's recent peaks, The Death of Mr Lazarescu or 4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days. But patience with Police, Adjective feels more than justified – it feels rewarded.