Directed by Christian Mungiu
Starring Adrian Titieni, Maria-Victoria Dragus
Romeo (Adrian Titieni) might not be the perfect husband, but the middle-aged physician hopes to be a great father providing every opportunity for his daughter Eliza (Maria-Victoria Dragus). On the cusp of an important set of exams to secure a scholarship in England, she is attacked and raped. Seeking to both gain justice for his daughter, and to retain her bright future, Romeo is drawn into a web of corruption and must decide what he is willing to compromise. However with someone vandalising his house and car, his mother’s health failing, and his mistress hiding a secret, Romeo’s life might get very complicated.
Graduation delves straight into a murky world, both politically and personally. As the layers are stripped back you see a world of interconnectivity as deals are made, and one hand washes another. It is a circle of corruption that Romeo is tentatively connected to, but has previously taken great pains to stay out of. In fact it is one that both he and his wife lament, and blame their generation for not being able to carry through with the social changes to Romania that were promised in the 90s. Yet circumstances slowly drag them into that web, raising questions both about the morality and the consequences.
There’s a lot of gears turning here, as we delve further into Romeo’s world, and strip back those various layers of private connections. It is a personal voyage of discovery. Christian Mungiu (director of the Palme d’Or winning 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days) gives us just enough to go on, but never drags the audience to the conclusion. Hence a number of threads are left somewhat dangling by the end of the film, despite its two hours of length.
For some this may be an issue, but that deliberate ambiguity also adds an element of hope to proceedings. We as an audience can draw our own conclusions given the facts we have available, leading to a general sense of optimism despite the dark events. It is up to is as an audience on how we interrupt this. Whether we just see a crumbling society; the crime, corruption, and the stray dogs – or whether we see the green shoots of change as represented by the younger cast. Either or both views are supportable in the context.
As our point of view character Adrian Titieni is low key, but believable as the doting father. His soulful and resigned look guides us through the proceedings. Maria-Victoria Dragus, holds up the other end of the proceedings as the dutiful but distressed daughter.
A slow-boil drama on the cost of compromise, and the slippery path it becomes. It may lack a little punch due to its length, but Graduation is certainly an interesting look into a murky world.