TIFF 2016: Graduation Review

Masters

Romanian director Cristian Mungiu created one of the most harrowing, aggravating, and frustrating films in 2007 with 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days – nothing short of a masterpiece. Graduation, his latest project, does not reach such heights, but, if you are patient and alert, it will be worth your time to examine another Romanian moral quandary. 

Adrien Titieni plays Romeo, a well-known and well-respected doctor. His daughter Eliza (Maria-Victoria Dragus) is a successful honours student looking forward to going to university in the UK. However, Daddy’s not so sure that Eliza has all it takes to excel on her final year exams. He enters a scheme involving the police, a border official, and the exam marker to ensure that his daughter gets nothing less than a perfect score. This scheme jeopardizes not only his professional standing, but also his personal safety and his relationship with his already fractured family.

The manner in which the characters speak is often devoid of emotion, which could indicate towards a repressive and stunted society, or the necessity of keeping your cards and secrets close to your chest to ensure success. I negatively assessed the monotonous dialogue the first-time through, but can see that it’s hinting towards a feeling of entrapment. The times in which emotion breaks through (as it certainly did in 4 months) are the times you should be sure you are paying attention. 

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The camerawork at times is excellent – and at other times, it is static and boring. I appreciated the scenes where Romeo is driving his daughter (the daughter always in the backseat as if she’s in custody). When the camera gets in close (and again, shows emotion), I feel that it pays off the most in terms of showing the claustrophobic conditions the father has inadvertently created for himself… or were they always there?

This film takes place in a society where everybody knows everybody: the border official helped you escape military service when you were younger, and your wife knows your mistress, and your mistress is also your daughter’s teacher/exam marker. Everybody wants a favour, and whether you do that favour is the difference between a friend for life (or until the next favour) and your worst enemy. One thing to ask Romeo from the beginning: what would Eliza’s true favour be?

Screening: 

Friday September 9, 5:30pm @ TIFF Bell Lightbox 2

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Thursday September 15, 9:00am @ TIFF Bell Lightbox 2

Michael McNeely is a deaf-blind film critic and advocate for greater accessibility in our cinemas. Read more about his story here.

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