Graduation (Bacalaureat) 2016 Spoiler Free Movie Review

Graduation (Bacalaureat) [2016] is the latest film from Romanian writer/director Cristian Mungiu. Starring Adrian Titieni and Maria-Victoria Dragus as father and daughter respectively, the story follows a father to the depths he will go to ensure his daughter’s success.

A Serious Man. The first thing I noticed watching this film is how much it felt like the Coen’s A Serious Man, although without the whimsy the Coen’s infuse their work with. It’s a film about a man trying to do right, to help someone he loves, but by falling deeper down a rabbit hole of morally wrong choices. There’s a handful of sub-plots involving mysteries that may never get solved, and the film ultimately has an abrupt ending that is purposefully unsatisfying.

Means to an End. Romeo’s daughter Eliza has the promise of studying abroad with a scholarship to Cambridge, assuming her final three exams are passed with exemplary grades. Unfortunately the day before her first exam, Eliza is attacked and nearly raped, spraining her wrist in the process of defending herself. Afraid that this attack and the trauma it leaves will affect her exams, her father Romeo begins to try and influence the outcome of her grades however he can. As a respectable and honest doctor, Romeo’s choices begin to waver into that ethical dilemma vortex of the means justifying the end, even if the means are wrong.

Lack of Satisfaction. The film is exceptionally written and directed, with performances well worth mentioning from everyone involved. The main story, along with its several subplots that only hinder and bog down Romeo more as the story progresses, effectively portray a tale about compromise, favoritism, and influence trading. When is it right to be dishonest? When life isn’t fair, is it right to make exceptions? If the end is ultimately for good, is cheating such a bad thing? The film poses plenty of questions and scenarios and isn’t afraid to withhold the answers, most likely because there isn’t always a definitive one.

A social drama filled with moral dilemmas, painfully honest performances, and a sympathetic tale that crosses borders.
This is subtle, meaningful, high-grade filmmaking worth exploring.