Graduation – film review *****


Graduation, 12th April 2017

I haven’t seen too many films at the cinema this year and have so far resisted the temptation to offer up an opinion on any of them, in large part because they had been and gone before I kicked off this blog. (For what it’s worth I was drawn into Silence but ultimately not satisfied, really enjoyed Manchester by the Se, especially Casey Affleck’s performance, was very annoyed by Jackie, just loved Toni Erdmann, admired Moonlight, was gripped by Elle, but this was largely because Isabelle Huppert was Isabelle Huppert, and think the passage of time might see Get Out start to grate on me).

However, Graduation is by some margin the best of them, indeed I would venture one of the most intelligent films I have seen in the past couple of years, (which marked a serious return to cinema going). I am no expert on things cinematic so had no knowledge of the Romanian director Cristian Mungiu, nor of his renowned compatriots who make up the cast.

You can read the proper reviews to get the drift but it cleverly manages to be thoroughly absorbing, and gently stomach turning, as it lays bear the moral dilemmas its protagonists face and the shabby compromises that feel are required to resolve them. A proper tragedy then. Adrian Titieni is compelling as a surgeon who wants his daughter to secure a scholarship to go to Cambridge University to study psychology. His relationship with his apparently depressed wife however is falling apart and he is in a relationship with an ex-patient. The assault of his daughter acts as the catalyst for a string of backscratching negotiations and deceits in order ostensibly to ensure her future is not imperilled.

This allows Mungiu to explore the father’s ethical and moral limits and his unclear past, the disillusionment of a generation which returned to Romania post the fall of communism, the pressures to do the right thing in a society plagued by low-level, endemic corruption and the clash between parental love and a young adult’s right to self determination. The film is shot in a naturalistic way, though with some interesting perspectives, and the music of Handel is a persistent counterpoint. The characters are rapidly sketched but then deepen through the film and are utterly believable. The low key progression of events to an enigmatic conclusion,whilst all the while threatening a more dramatic twist, resembles the films of Michael Haneke, which is a massive compliment in my book.

Anyway, please try to see it if you have any interest at all in proper cinema. In fact if I had a favour to call in from you or a way of bribing you then that is exactly what I would ask you to do.