Closer to the Moon
Theatrical release poster
Directed byNae Caranfil
Written byNae Caranfil
Produced by
  • Michael Fitzgerald
  • Denis Friedman
  • Alessandro Leone
  • Bobby Paunescu
  • Renata Rainieri
CinematographyMarius Panduru
Edited by
  • Larry Madaras
  • Roberto Silvi
Music byLaurent Couson
Distributed by
Release dates
  • November 29, 2013 (2013-11-29) (New Romanian Cinema Festival)
  • March 7, 2014 (2014-03-07) (Romania)
  • April 17, 2015 (2015-04-17) (United States)
Running time
112 minutes
  • Romania
  • United States
Budget$5 million[1]
Box office$5,396[2]

Closer to the Moon (Romanian: Mai aproape de lună) is a 2013 comedy-drama film written and directed by Nae Caranfil, and starring Vera Farmiga, Mark Strong, Harry Lloyd, Joe Armstrong, Tim Plester, Christian McKay, and Anton Lesser.[3] Based on the true story of the Ioanid Gang, it is one of the most expensive productions in Romanian cinema.[4]

It had its world premiere at the Making Waves: New Romanian Cinema Festival at the Lincoln Center on November 29, 2013.[5] The film was released in Romania on March 7, 2014, and was given a limited release in the United States on April 17, 2015 by Sundance Selects.[6]


Post-war Communist Romania: In 1959 Bucharest, members of Romania's high society Max Rosenthal (Mark Strong), Alice Bercovich (Vera Farmiga), Dumi Dorneanu (Tim Plester), Răzvan Orodel (Joe Armstrong) and Iorgu Ristea (Christian McKay), known collectively as Ioanid Gang, announce to a crowd that they are shooting a film. A young café worker, Virgil (Harry Lloyd), is among the witnesses. Under the guise of making this film, the Ioanid Gang perform a heist of the National Bank of Romania. The following day, Virgil loiters around a film set and encounters the director, Flaviu (Allan Corduner), who requests him to buy vodka and give it to him whenever he asks.

Eight months before the heist took place, Max, Dumi, Iorgu and Răzvan, heroes of the resistance during World War II, celebrate New Year's Eve and the start of 1959. Max is divorcing his wife, Sonia (Monica Bîrlădeanu). Alice returns from Moscow with her and Max's son, Mirel (Marcin Walewski), in tow. She re-introduces Mirel to his father, and they begin to bond.

One night, the Gang celebrates Dumi's birthday and reminisce about their early lives as revolutionaries. For fun, they plot the heist in order to rile up anti-Communist Romania, but then realize that Max is taking their conversation seriously. He convinces Dumi, Iorgu and Răzvan to join him, but Alice says no as she has to raise Mirel. She changes her mind, however, when she learns that Mirel wants to join as the fifth person. Alice becomes enraged during the robbery when she sees Mirel filming it. After a couple of months, Iorgu unintentionally implicates himself, and the group is individually located and arrested by Comrade Holban (Anton Lesser) and his police officers. Their arrests happen on the same day as the Luna 2 landing on the Moon.

One year later, Virgil is an experienced camera assistant. He is called in by his boss, who informs him of a short film about to start production. Virgil is assigned to record it. It is then revealed that the film is a propaganda piece about the Ioanid Gang's crime. The group, who have been convicted and are awaiting their execution, are ordered by the Securitate to star in the film. Later, Virgil informs Flaviu that he was present during the robbery and its danger has been greatly exaggerated by the authorities. When the Gang arrive for filming, Alice begins to bond with Virgil. When Flaviu gets drunk and passes out, Max takes over directing. While setting up a shot, he secretly gives Virgil contact details for the Gang's loved ones, requesting he contact them to let them know the group is alive and in prison. Later, Virgil makes an anonymous call to the first person on the list, and continues to do so with the help of his landlord Moritz (David de Keyser).

One night, Virgil is taken to Holban's house. Holban reveals that he knows Virgil has been doing favours for the Gang, and asks him to keep doing so in order to win their trust. He asks Virgil to find the sixth member of the group, Alice's son, as the Gang will be executed soon. During a commotion on set one day, Alice slips away. Virgil follows her to a house, where she says goodbye to her son. Afterwards, they have dinner at Virgil's house and sleep together. The next morning, Alice surrenders to the guards keeping surveillance outside, and leaves Virgil with sealed instructions. Virgil is approached by Holban and asked to write the address of Mirel, but he feigns unawareness.

Max's ex-brother-in-law (Darrell D'Silva) arrives and relieves Holban of duty due to negligence and exhaustion. Max asks him to send the Gang into space instead of executing them, but he angrily retorts that astronauts should be heroes and not traitors. Alice's letter asks Virgil to organize Mirel's Bar Mitzvah, which he does. Iorgu, Dumi, Răzvan and Max are sent before the firing squad. In voiceover, Alice says that, at the last moment, her sentence was changed to life imprisonment because she had fallen pregnant. The audience is then told that Alice emigrated to Israel with Mirel and her daughter.



The film was written and directed by Nae Caranfil, and produced by Michael Fitzgerald, Denis Friedman, Renata Rainieri, Alessandro Leone and Bobby Paunescu through the production company Mandragora Movies. In August 2011, it was announced that Vera Farmiga and Mark Strong had been cast in leading roles as Alice Bercovich and Max Rosenthal, respectively.[7] Later that month, it was reported that Harry Lloyd had joined the cast in the role of Virgil.[8] The rest of the cast consisted of Anton Lesser, Joe Armstrong, Christian McKay, Monica Bîrlădeanu, John Henshaw, Gwyneth Keyworth and Stuart McQuarrie. Principal photography took place in Bucharest, Romania in late 2011. The production budget of the film has been estimated to be approximately US$5 million or €4.4 million.[1]



The film had its world premiere on November 29, 2013 at the Making Waves: New Romanian Cinema Festival at the Lincoln Center, before being released in Romanian cinemas on March 7, 2014. The film screened at the Romanian Film Festival in London on November 13, 2014.[9] It was then released in Poland on March 13, 2015,[10] and in the United States by Sundance Selects on April 17, 2015.[6] The film screened at the Toronto Jewish Film Festival on May 2, 2015.[11] The film was released in a limited release and through video on demand by Neo (New Entertainment Organization) in the United Kingdom on November 13, 2015.[10]

Home media

The film was released on DVD in the United States on September 15, 2015. That same day, it was made available for streaming on Netflix.[12]


Box office

The film made $5,396 from its sole theatrical screening in the United Kingdom.[2]

Critical response

Doina Levintza and Nae Caranfil

The film received a mostly mixed reception from film critics. On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film received an approval rating of 46%, based on 13 reviews, with an average rating of 5.8/10.[13] On Metacritic, the film was given a rating average of 47 out of 100, based on 6 reviews, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[14]

Ronnie Scheib of Variety said, "A strange but true Romanian bank robbery provides inspiration for this darkly comic tale of history and its myriad interpretations. Shot in English with a mainly British and American cast, this surprisingly entertaining black comedy could connect with American [audiences]."[15] John DeFore of The Hollywood Reporter wrote, "Though based on a true story, the film discards some of its claim to authenticity right off the bat, casting Brits and Americans in all the leads and having them speak English instead of Romanian; later, it will have trouble establishing the gang's motives for a crime they all but knew would lead to their execution. Stateside potential is modest for the semi-convincing yet enjoyable tale, relying on familiar names in a cast that acquits itself well given the demands of the unusual plot."[16]

Tara Karajica of wrote, "As far as the acting is concerned, the cast, mainly British and comprisedof Vera Farmiga, Mark Strong, Harry Lloyd among many others, is evenly exceptional. The technical details as well as Doina Levinta's costumes and the choice of music are also top-notch. All in all, Closer to the Moon, with its tragico-burlesque tone, stellar cast and Caranfil's new and uncompromising vision is a bold, edifying and marvelous history lesson as well as a courageous contribution not only to the Romanian New Wave but also to cinema in general."[17]


Year Award Category Recipient(s) Result
2014 Gopo Awards[18] Best Film Bobby Paunescu, Michael Fitzgerald, Renata Rainieri, Alessandro Leone, Denis Friedman Won
Best Directing Nae Caranfil Won
Best Screenplay Won
Best Actress in a Leading Role Vera Farmiga Nominated
Best Actor in a Leading Role Mark Strong Nominated
Harry Lloyd Nominated
Best Music Laurent Couson Won
Best Cinematography Marius Panduru Won
Best Costume Design Doina Levintza Won
Best Hair & Makeup Laura Ozier, Elena Tudor, Lucas Coulon, Andreescu Maria Won
Best Sound Florin Tabacaru, Alexandru Demitru, Marius Leftarache Won
Best Editing Catalin Cristutiu, Larry Madaras, Roberto Silvi Won

See also


  1. ^ a b Blaga, Iulia (May 29, 2014). "FNE at TIFF 2014: Closer to the Moon". Film New Europe.
  2. ^ a b "Closer to the Moon (2015) – Financial Information". Retrieved May 21, 2016.
  3. ^ "Closer to the Moon (2013)". Cinemagia (in Romanian). Retrieved March 16, 2014.
  4. ^ Dobroiu, Ștefan (March 5, 2014). "Romania hooks up with Hollywood to get Closer to the Moon". Cineuropa.
  5. ^ Scheib, Ronnie (December 6, 2013). "Film Review: "Closer to the Moon'"". Variety. Retrieved March 16, 2014.
  6. ^ a b Jagernauth, Kevin (April 3, 2015). "Exclusive: Trailer And Poster For 'Closer To The Moon' Starring Vera Farmiga And Mark Strong". Indiewire. Archived from the original on April 5, 2015. Retrieved April 3, 2015.
  7. ^ Fleming, Mike Jr. (August 9, 2011). "Vera Farmiga, Mark Strong Star In 'Closer To The Moon'". Deadline Hollywood.
  8. ^ Adams, Nathan (August 31, 2011). "'Game of Thrones' Actor Harry Lloyd Joins the Already Stellar Cast of 'Closer to the Moon'". Film School Rejects.
  9. ^ "Closer to the Moon – UK premiere". Romanian Film Festival.
  10. ^ a b Barraclough, Leo (February 11, 2015). "Berlin: New U.K. Distributor Neo Picks Up 'Closer to the Moon,' 'Perfect Obedience'". Variety.
  11. ^ "Closer to the Moon / mai aproape de lună". Toronto Jewish Film Festival. Archived from the original on November 26, 2015. Retrieved May 10, 2015.
  12. ^ "Closer to the Moon". Retrieved September 19, 2015.
  13. ^ "Closer to the Moon (2013)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved June 12, 2016.
  14. ^ "Closer to the Moon Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved September 20, 2015.
  15. ^ Scheib, Ronnie (December 6, 2013). "'Closer to the Moon' Review: Nae Caranfil's Black Comedy". Variety.
  16. ^ DeFore, John (December 7, 2013). "Closer to the Moon: Film Review". The Hollywood Reporter.
  17. ^ Karajica, Tara (June 7, 2014). "TIFF 2014 – Closer to the Moon: A wonderful and bold revision of Romanian History". Altcine.
  18. ^ "Nominalizarile celei de a 9-a editii a Premiilor Gopo". Premiile Gopo (in Romanian). March 3, 2015. Archived from the original on May 2, 2018. Retrieved March 11, 2015.