Graduation (AKA Bacalaureat) (2017)

Viewed April 23rd


A Romanian doctor finds himself taking drastic lengths to make sure his daughter has the opportunity to leave their provincial town and study abroad in the UK.  

Written and directed by Cristian Mungiu, Graduation plays the game of the naturalism genre very well. The game is to draw in the viewer to the film's world through a balance of unveiling realism and compelling story. It has to feel as though its naturalistic qualities are not only real but the unveiling of some new aspect to reality. At the same time, the film's characters and narrative need to feel logical and emotional enough for us to travel deeper into the world and encounter all these unveilings. If the game is played well, the viewer experiences them not just as an aspect of the world, but of themselves in the world.

Graduation does all this. Its greatest asset is its lead performance by Adrian Titieni. His eyes are obscured to us, but we can tell there's something worth knowing more about. So the film compels us to try and get inside its world. And once we're in, Titieni plays the loving father driven to morally-questionable behavior so fully that we can't help but follow along with his struggles to the point that, although the film is about a very local/regional issue, it strikes a universal chord.