Graduation – Film Review by Emily Elphinstone
Director: Cristian Mungiu
Writer: Cristian Mungiu
Stars: Adrian Titieni, Maria-Victoria Dragus, Rares Andrici
Christian Mungui is a writer and director known for his investigation of morality. Following the success of 4 Months, 3 Weeks and Two Days, Mungui now turns his attentions to the complexities of corruption; challenging the audience’s preconceived ideas of right and wrong by presenting selfless, rather than selfish motivation for underhand dealings.
Dr Romeo Aldea (Adrian Titieni) is a man of some standing, in a run-down Romanian town which still shows desolate signs of its Soviet past. Known to his peers as an honourable man (despite a long running affair), he can politely refuse the proffered brown envelope of a new patient without hesitation. But when his daughter Eliza (Maria-Victoria Dragus) is attacked shortly before her final exams, Dr Aldea’s ideals are challenged in new ways; as he questions how far he would go to see her achieve the better life he had always dreamed of. But what is the difference between friends and family supporting each other in times of need, and professionals underhandedly corrupting the system?
At its best, Graduation highlights the complexity of family dynamics; honesty; and how much personal action is shaped by, and for, others. However, the film lacks some of the power of Mungui’s best known work. It may raise interesting questions, but the grey industrial landscape and focus on passionless domestic relationships feel somewhat unoriginal; clouding the film’s subtleties with the sense that we have seen this all before. Once again no one is happy, and none of the characters will learn anything from the film’s action. Ultimately, as a multi-faceted exploration of what motivates, and affects a person’s moral compass; Graduation is an evocative and challenging film. But however intriguing the themes it raises, the final product may never fully satisfy.