This has been misclassified as a dark comedy, when there is no comedy in it whatsoever. It is a superbly realistic drama. We are slowly introduced to the man as he happens to be waiting for ambulance, and he's real to the core - a retired engineer whose wife died years ago, he lives in a modest, cluttered apartment keeping three cats for company, tending to his flowerpots and drinking himself to death due to the pervasive loneliness. He is a gentle soul, but to the outside world he is a poor old man with nothing left to offer, basically ignored by his surroundings. His longtime neighbours, as much as they pity the wreck that he's become, clearly retain some of the respect towards him, still referring to him (perhaps partly mockingly) as 'Mr engineer' and 'intellectual'.
Knowing more about him than doctors and nurses to which he is no more than an irresponsible drunkman, we are bound to emphatize seeing him treated with little or no respect at each of his arrivals to the three different hospitals. The movie is an exercise in patience not only due to the realistic display of the uneffective Romanian healthcare system, but also the egotistical medical staff determined to remain unhurried and unconcerned despite the emergency.
The detail I was particularly fond of is how he repeated his name on request, "Lazarescu Dante Remus", on multiple occasions throughout the movie, but each time with less vigour, until his condition deteriorated so much that he couldn't even understand the request. Somehow this felt very personal to me. He's pronounced that name so many times in his life, same as each of us pronounce ours in our day-to-day lives. It is who we are, his was who he was. It instilled a sense of closeness and made him feel dearer to me, for which it only made it harder to watch him being mistreated.
Another detail that touched me was what he blabbed about semiconsciously while lying on the stretcher. It was about how he went to the market the other day to exchange the flower seeds he bought, as they had sold him the wrong kind of seed. :( How so very real...
Although it is clear from the title that he doesn't get through the night, the movie itself ends without letting us see this, which I'm thankful for.
If you like this movie, there's another one from Romania that you might also like: "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days" (2007).