Mr Lazarescu is a magnificent, humane piece of cinema. It is also that rare thing, a film which dares to ask of it's audience. In what it expects them to endure: an almost real time depiction of the slow and painful death of a frail old man, but also in how it allows them to empathise with the characters.
Give your film a handsome, eloquent old man with cancer and everyone feels sorry for him. Here, the main character is alternately stubborn, passive and confused as he is sent from hospital to hospital, and it's suggested his drinking may be at least partly responsible for his illness. Poor Mr Lazarescu doesn't live up to the expectations of one other reviewer here, but for those who appreciate a protaganist who reflects our own likely failings, rather than an idealised version of ourselves, Mr L is more sympathetic than any Tom Cruise or George Clooney hero.
This complexity also extends to the other characters. The medical staff Lazarescu encounters treat him with often horrifying disrespect, but rather than make them wantonly callous, they are given some justification by swamping them with the fall out of a massive car accident, (what would be the focus of most pics plays out in the background in extremely effective fashion).
Being forced to respond in a nuanced way like this is deeply rewarding, as any fan of great TV like The Wire will tell you, and Mr Lazarescu has a similar power to make you forget you are watching a film at all. The cast give uniformly excellent, naturalistic performances.
And yes, the film is funny, not in the unsparing depiction of illness and mortality, but the early part of the film, in which very little actually happens, which has plenty of gentle, observational comedy reminiscent of Mike Leigh or Lukas Moodysson as Lazarescu's neighbours interact.