Desperate and muted (in a positive way) story of one man's efforts to tack together both daughter's future and personal position. Director Cristian Mungiu uses scalpel to frame lead character and social problems in Romania's periphery in front of each other.
Adrian Titieni (as Romeo) gives one of the most outstanding male performances in European cinema this year.
A feel-bad movie from what seems to be a very dreary country... with a thriving Cinema. Is it the comfortable life here in USA that makes our Cinema so weak? Does hardship beget better art? Does poetry come from sadness more easily than from contentment? Or is it not really joy but just the smug nature of life in America which dulls our Cinema? Or the need for greater and greater spectacle, forsaking meaning & depth?
A slow-burn mystery couches an implosive portrait of institutional rot. That description sounds incendiary, and Mungiu certainly doesn't hide his feelings about the state of Romania. But his film is also one of deep empathy for those living in a world where personal/political corruption feels like the only answer. No wasted scenes—just a potent hope that the problems of the last generation can be sorted by the next.
GRADUATION is quintessential of the Romanian New Wave in that it deals so directly w/ the kind of blasé workaday corruption which transverses Romanian society as depicted again and again in its contemporary cinema. What makes GRADUATION very strong -- much stronger than BEYOND THE HILLS -- is its marriage of this vision to a residing moral ambiguity. This is not farce nor is it excoriating screed. It is human.
I was slightly disappointed by this, given the caliber of Mungiu's previous effort, 4 Months 3 Weeks and 2 Days. But this was still a very solid film and an interesting critique on the legal system in Romania.
Mungiu solidifies his crown in this highly intelligent, philosophical pondering of morals, ethics and corruption that also manages to make for astute political commentary while being a cautionary tale about living vicariously through our offspring. The acting is spot on and the withholding and subsequent releasing of story/character information perfectly paced. 4.5 stars
I will always appreciate 'kitchen sink' social realism melodramas with complex characterisation. The flawed protagonist is partially redeemed by his impassioned pursuit to 'free' his daughter from the oppressive criminal locale through educational aspiration, even if his extra-marital affair and his fraudulent methods of emancipation are highly problematic. This may not be Mungiu's finest but the arc is strong.