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Defying Compromise
tributarystu21 May 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Films rarely put forward leading characters that they then choose to vehemently punish throughout. But this is Mungiu, who has already proved more than adept at creating authentic and ruthless portrayals of society and in Bacalaureat he scrapes at the edges of our souls. His tale of generational change is predicated on the dismantling of a profoundly patriarchal state of being. To this purpose, he crafts a story of remarkable complexity and depth, which cuts across so many layers, that taking them apart would be counterproductive.

In short: Eliza is sexually assaulted one day before her 'bacalaureat', the final set of high-school exams students sit in Romania. She had been awarded a conditional scholarship at a university in the UK, but her impairment, both mental and physical, poses a threat to her getting the grades she needs. Cue in the father, Romeo, a local doctor, whose life is about to encounter quite the upheaval in his desire to ensure Eliza fulfills his own botched 'destiny' of leaving the country. Things take a turn for the complicated as he is more or less inadvertently offered an opportunity to guarantee the results his daughter needs. The circuit of corruption is as informal as it is intricate - a friend of a friend situation, one hand washes the other kind of thing. And beyond all this mess, Romeo also has to keep up the facade of his marriage, while dating a single mother, Sandra, who happens to be a teacher at Eliza's high-school.

What makes Bacalaureat instantly and distinctively good is the attention to detail, which breeds both familiarity and authenticity. But unlike Mungiu's previous major success, 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days, the grimness does not stem from the subject matter, or the dry (non-)stylization of the story, but from how intertwined the many strands of this one case prove to be. Shadowing the father along it is painful because his shortcomings are obvious from afar. But it is his demise that is so important to ensure a new generation comes along which will set itself apart from the current one. He is tragic, because not only can he not escape his destiny, but he doesn't recognize his role in propagating that which he abhors. Romeo's willingness to compromise in order to ensure his daughter's chance of being the change he desires is part of the hereditary disease plaguing any such social construction.

Taking a wider view, it isn't coincidental that every moral-institutional junction is safeguarded by a man - a doctor, a police officer, a former mayoral figure, a school commissioner, a prosecutor. Contrasting this are the female characters, the strength of Eliza, the stoicism of Sandra, the wisdom of Romeo's wife, Magda. It's a battle of utilitarian and deontological ethics, posing the question of whether moral pragmatism can be moral at all. There is little doubt where Mungiu sides, as the male 'keywardens' are at least one of: cynical, unfeeling, self-serving, hypocritical. Masculine instincts are both highlighted ('it wasn't a rape, it was just a sexual assault!') and criticized. Even as it seems that a pair of male characters come along that are understanding and humane, there is a strong pinch of self-interest that dictates terms, which is why they are punished with a fine ironic touch by the director.

For all that happens, there are two scenes which summarize the journey we are on. Firstly, when 'someone' (life?) throws a stone at the apartment Romeo's family is living in, thereby breaking a window, he rushes out confidently, as if finding the culprit were a matter of when, rather than if. Then, towards the end of the film, as Romeo's life unravels by the virtue of his poor choices, he decides to venture after the assumed perpetrator of the assault on his daughter; now, however, he loses the trail instantly, finds himself wandering confused in the shadows of apartment buildings, jumping at every unexpected noise coming his way. The grip, the control over how society is run, ever loosening.

If anything, I would criticize Mungiu for being overly and overtly moralistic. There are several moments where characters are used as props to portray said moral perspectives, scenes which feel artificial and pedagogically pedantic. Also, the bureaucratic coldness conveyed by almost all officials (one moment dictating an official statement concerning Eliza's rape, the next discussing trivialities) feels uninspiring by now - there is a sense that themes are contained within a national frame, that our sole focus is alleviating the burdens of the past, more than the challenges of the present. And although this is hinted at during the film, the matter of exam fraud was as rooted as it is illustrated here about ten years ago, when I myself was finishing high-school. Hence, it feels against the times in a way, but then this can also be viewed as the last vestiges of an era, Romeo's solution being retrograde especially in such a light.

Bickering aside, creating such a complex and highly integrated story that feels true to itself almost all the way is quite splendid indeed. It's not an easy ride for viewers, who will suffer the pain of compromise, of systemic contortion against the individual - ultimately, Romeo has good intentions, the world just seems to require of him to do what he does, to right a wrong with a wrong. Yet, it remains the individual that decides, which is why the 'bacalaureat' is such an important stepping stone for change and for maturity. Mungiu's film is a comment on the precipice we are finding ourselves on now, where we see the change more clearly, are even enacting it, but it is the follow-up that will define us as a people, as a generation. Funnily enough, he proves to be an optimist.
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Exposes favoritism, influence trading, and codes of silence
howard.schumann29 October 2016
Philosophers throughout history have wrestled with the question of ends and means, right and wrong, and good or bad. Socrates said, "It is never right to do wrong." Others maintain that it is right to act in such a way that it produces the most desirable consequences whether or not it follows society's rules. For Dr. Romeo Aldea (Adrian Titieni), a well-respected doctor in Romanian director Cristian Mungiu's ("Beyond the Hills") latest film, Graduation (Bacalaureat), his goal is to do whatever it takes to secure a better future for his daughter, Eliza (Maria-Victoria Dragus), who has been conditionally accepted for a scholarship to Cambridge University in England depending on the grades in her final exams.

As a result, his personal integrity is tested in an environment where greed, corruption, and opportunism are the norm. Romeo and his wife Magda (Lia Bugnar) live in a small apartment in Cluj, a Transylvanian city, together with Romeo's mother (Alexandra Davidescu) whose health is rapidly declining. Aware that he is having an affair with Sandra (Malina Manovici), a teacher at Eliza's school who has a young boy, Matei (David Hodorog), of her own, Magda seems to be in a state of constant depression. According to Mungiu, her depression reflects the state of the country itself where people are living in a state of paranoia, dramatized as the film begins with a rock crashing through the window of Romeo's house.

The mystery of the perpetrator's identity soon gives way to another. Before the final exam that will determine whether or not Eliza receives a scholarship, she is assaulted and nearly raped on her way to school by an unknown assailant. Defending herself, she breaks her wrist and is forced to wear a cast on her right arm. Fearing she will be unable to properly write her exams, Romeo follows the advice of Ivanov (Vlad Ivanov), a friend in the police department, and pulls some strings with the school administrator and the town's Vice Mayor Bulai (Petre Ciubotaru) to ensure that she receives a qualifying grade, but every compromising decision leads to another until even the tangled web he weaves even threatens the good will of his daughter.

Attempting to solve the two mysteries of who threw the rock and who assaulted Eliza, Romeo suggests to Eliza's biker boyfriend, Marius (Rares Andrici) that he is hiding the truth about her assault but their confrontation turns physical and only serves to escalate the problem with his daughter. Romeo clings to the idea that he is a decent person who is only trying to create a better life for someone he loves but it is clear that he has become part of the system he detests. Co-produced by the Dardenne Brothers, Graduation has the Dardennes' naturalistic look and its gritty realism but Mungiu's effortless subtlety and the power of his moral compass is his own.

Mungiu says that "If you tolerate your own compromise you will tolerate the compromise around you. You will lose the moral power to speak out, because deep inside you know you have done something that is not so moral. We all complain in Romania about the level of corruption without understanding that we are responsible for it." Though there are no consequences apparent for any of the wrongdoers, many unanswered questions are simply left hanging, and the film's abrupt ending is less than satisfying, Mungiu succeeds in exposing the favoritism, influence trading, and codes of silence that permeate Romanian society, an exposé that may just be the catalyst the country needs to rebuild a more just and ethical society.
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Complex issues are handled with great care and compassion
wcoleparks21 June 2016
When a man's daughter is assaulted the night before her final exams, her future, which he has set up so well, is thrown into question. Graduation is all about the lengths a father is willing to go for his children. Whether motivated by selfish reasons or genuine desire, the father wants nothing more than to get his daughter out of the morally corrupt environment that permeates their town. To accomplish his plans however, he starts to cross lines and partake in the system he openly reproaches. Christian Mungiu tackles these sensitive topics with care and compassion. Using long takes and unobtrusive camera work, Mungiu emphasizes character above all else. Every character is redeemable in some manner, but no one is innocent. Though the ending brings in an unnecessary police investigation that seems to beat the point home, it is redeemed by the haunting final image that gives a lot of disastrous implications about generational connections. As favors and obligations start to stack up, the father becomes entangled in a web of questionable decisions. The question ultimately becomes, "do good reasons make up for bad decisions?"

Graduation (2016) Directed by: Cristian Mungiu Screenplay by: Cristian Mungiu Producers: Cristian Mungiu Starring: Rares Andrici, Valeriu Andriuta, and Eniko Benczo Run Time: 2 hours 36 minutes
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Back-scratching as a way of life
rubenm25 December 2016
In order to let his daughter escape a corrupt country, the lead character in 'Bacalaureat' has to immerse himself in the corrupt system he despises. That's the central paradox and the moral dilemma in this film. Doctor Aldea, a surgeon in a small town in Romania, has one goal in his life: to let his daughter escape to 'civilisation'. This goal has come within reach when she is selected for a scholarship in Britain, provided she passes the exams with excellent results. When she is violently attacked a few days before the exams, there is a serious risk she won't pass the test. So the doctor decides to pull some strings.

But he has to cope with the moral consequences afterwards. Is the father still able to look his daughter in the eye, after having told her all her life that corruption is wrong? And what about his wife, who has made a point of never lowering her standards of integrity, and has paid for her righteousness with a low-paid and uninteresting job? Besides, how can he defend high moral standards when he is conducting an affair with a much younger woman? The doctor defends his moral integrity: the attack is an unforeseen emergency, and so exceptions to the rule are permitted. But does he believe so himself? Things are made more complicated because of his daughter's boyfriend, and her own doubts about the need to go to Britain.

The film looks at all sides of moral integrity, and doesn't offer straightforward solutions. In fact, a lot is left unanswered, as if the director wants to say that things are never very clear, and there is always room for doubt.

Apart from posing moral questions, the film also offers a fine view into modern Romanian society. 'You'll scratch my back, and I'll scratch yours' seems to be the national motto. The film offers little hope of improvement: the only character opposing this system is the doctor's wife. But she looks utterly depressed and, as the doctor points out, has only been able to keep her high moral standards because she could rely on his position.

Director Cristian Mungiu is able to weave the many different story lines nicely together, although some scenes don't seem to be related to the rest of the story. Probably he intentionally doesn't want to spell everything out. Life itself is sometimes ambiguous, so why shouldn't a movie be?
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Romanian Drama on the corruption that attracts when a child's future is at stake
t-dooley-69-3869169 August 2017
Romeo is a middle aged doctor in the rural mountains of Transylvania, he and his wife have long since exhausted the passion of their union and he seeks such comforts elsewhere. Meanwhile he and his wife live to see their daughter graduate and move to England to study psychology at university. All she has to do is finish school.

Then on the day before her final exams start she get assaulted outside the school. She is now an emotional wreck and all the careful plans laid over the last eighteen years are in tatters. However, Romania is the sort of place where if you have the right connections you can make things happen and so after a lifetime of doing the right thing Romeo finds temptation knocking on his door, that is to do the wrong thing but, in his heart, it is for the right reasons.

This is a very European film in that it often leaves things hanging – like life it is not all packaged for easy consumption. There is no musical score which adds to the mundanity of what is supposed to be ordinary in anyone's life. The societal issues are all dealt with in a way that makes them more or less matter of fact whilst not detracting from the base wrong doings that seem to be rampant. This is a film that uses a simple story to discuss complex issues that go into the very depths of belief and values and as such is one that is easy to recommend to all fans of thoughtful European cinema.
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Deeper life themes in fine film
proud_luddite10 February 2018
In a small Romanian town, Romeo (Adrien Titeini) is a local doctor who is hell-bent on ensuring his teenage daughter Eliza (Maria-Victoria Dragus) excels in her final high-school exams in order to be accepted at a university in the U.K. He is even willing to cross legal and ethical boundaries to make this happen after Eliza faces a crisis shortly before her exams.

Director/writer Christian Mungiu seems to have a knack for courageously exposing his home country's culture of corruption and the moral dilemmas this causes for average citizens - especially when these folks are in a quandary and "taking the high road" would not likely get them what they want and need. In "4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days", the story revolved around arranging an illegal abortion during the Communist era; in "Graduation" (which takes place in the current time), it involves Romeo's insistence that his only child must leave corrupt Romania in order to have a decent life and future.

"Graduation" begins quite well in introducing the audience to interesting characters and how they respond to the corruption in their midst. The middle part is even more intriguing as Romeo's moral compass goes so downhill that he is becoming what he once condemned. It is evident he's acted this way before but not at this level.

There are two key scenes in this section in which Romeo defends his actions. One involves an argument with his wife; the other with Eliza. During the dispute with his wife (played by Lia Bugnar), he argues how much she benefited from his smaller moral slips in the past even if she wouldn't have acted the same way herself. His argument is so convincing that even the viewer could agree with him in a very uncomfortable way.

The final segment does injustice to the beginning and the middle. It seems to go in various unnecessary directions and fails to continue the momentum built earlier. But "Graduation" is still a film worth seeing. It includes universal themes such as well-meaning parents over-planning their children's future plus a challenge to the belief that "the grass is always greener" somewhere else. And of course, the saying "O, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive" is well played out in the narrative. - dbamateurcritic
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A father's dreams for his daughter are jeopardized just as she reaches adulthood.
ncweil26 May 2017
Graduation, by Cristian Mungiu reviewed by NC Weil

This 2016 Romanian film by the director of 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, spans the time between a young woman's high school final exams and her graduation. Her father, a doctor, and mother, a librarian, though estranged (he sleeps on the couch and has a lover), both dote on their daughter, and their highest concern is her well-being. The girl is an excellent student, but the day before her exams she is attacked by a would-be rapist - in the scuffle her wrist is broken, but her violation goes far deeper than bones in a cast.

Her father, a precise, methodical, and - yes - kind man, is determined to see her go to university in the UK where she has been offered a scholarship (contingent on high exam scores). He will do anything to make that plan happen. The assault is one more reason - Romania, for him, is a dead end. He and his wife are stuck there, but for their daughter, it is not too late. She must leave.

The film opens with a rock shattering a window of their ground-floor apartment - the doctor certainly has a point about the benefits of living elsewhere - and he has labored to give her the chance to escape. But after the assault she gets cold feet.

Strip away the differences between Romania's culture and our own, and the film boils down to a father wanting what he is convinced is best for his near-adult daughter, with his intentions overriding her own desires and distractions. Graduation is about leaving one phase of life to move into the next. The impossibility of planting your own experience directly into the heart and mind of a grown child is on painful display here - you have learned the hard way what you should have done, but she, rationally or not, has to make her own choices.

For a parent, relinquishing control can mean one's life has truly been wasted - you didn't save yourself, and you can't save her either. But she's no longer yours to control - to insist on obedience is to keep her dependent, unable to be any kind of adult. In the end, that stunting is probably a worse trap than whatever limits her bad decisions impose. Mungiu's sympathy for all his characters forces us to recognize that everyone, no matter how corrupt or self-serving, is just trying to make the best of the life they're stuck in. Futility outranks evil in his compromised worldview.
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After lifelong avoiding corruption, how attractive can it be to counter your principles in an exceptional case when a child's future is at stake
JvH4813 March 2017
Seen at the Film Fest Ghent 2016 (website: In the last four years, I've seen several depressing movies about corruption in former Communist countries. It seems a popular topic in the area, as can be readily derived from noteworthy examples like Durak/The Fool (Bykov 2014), Dolgaya Schastlivaya Zhizn/A Long And Happy Life (Khlebnikov 2013), and Leviathan (Zvyagintsev 2014). Even though the movie at hand follows suit on the same path, it however winds up being not that depressing as the others. Especially the final scenes brought some silver lining for the country's future, albeit that I'm not so sure it is the actual message that the film makers try to drive home.

Anyway, the running time is more than 2 hours, but I could not spot any boring or redundant scene. Everything included in the script was necessary and useful, emphasizing how convoluted the tangled web became as woven by the various protagonists. It made abundantly clear that one step causes the next step, and so on and so on, until the point that no backpedaling is possible anymore. In other words, the original policy of our lead character Romeo may not have brought him wealth or influence in the past, yet his route was straightforward and devoid of complex deals deserving counter deals to make the circle round.

The threesome family seemed a happy family from the outset, which proved gradually untrue in small steps. The case was not that their problems were unnatural or far-fetched, therefore it took its time for the cracks to become visible. Progress developed slowly but steadily. It was a surprise, for me that is, that there was some sort of resolution in the end. It countered the assumed morale of this movie (my assumption), that there is no middle road in corruption: either one steers clear of it, or one gets involved in complex arrangements from which one cannot get loose once started.

All in all, two hours well spent while watching my favorite theme develop on screen, at the same time asking myself what I should have done in similar circumstances. Such thought provoking plots are very welcome, mostly also carrying an existential takeaway message hidden under an exercise for the viewer. We were taught that Honesty Is The Best Policy, but the plot of this movie lets you get doubts underway.
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lost generations
dromasca24 October 2016
The Romanian 'New Wave' is not that new any longer. For the last decade Romanian directors succeeded to surprise viewers and juries with their films dealing with hardships of life under the Communist dictatorship, and about the period that followed immediately, a time that carried the sequels of the dictatorship in the difficult transition that the country has undergone. It's kind of a revenge and recovery both from an artistic but also an attitude point of view, because Romanian cinema was deeply affected by censorship, and the directors of the previous generations enjoyed less freedom than their colleagues in other former Communist countries, having to either compromise, or had their movies severely chopped of, if not simply interdicted. The result was that with very few exceptions both the value and the message of the Romanian films before 1989 was null. More than a decade had to pass, and a new generation of film makers to appear in order to fix and start the recovery process. Results are however brilliant. Cristian Mungiu is one of the best representatives of the new school of directors, maybe the best. All his projects are followed with interest, and they do not disappoint, including 'Bacalaureat' (Graduation).

Interestingly enough, the films are differently perceived by the Romanian and foreign audiences, and this was clear in the reception and commentaries at the Haifa International Film Festival where I saw the film, as well as in the questions that lead role actor Adrian Titieni was asked from the audience after the screening. He was quite careful in pointing that the film should be taken as what it is, meaning one film representing maybe one facet of the Romanian reality, but not all of it.

There are two main themes in the film: First it's about the generation gap, about parents sacrificing everything for what they perceive as best for their kids - but is this 'everything' the best or even good? Same as in 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, the film that brought him the Palme d'Or, the hero of Mungiu's latest film crosses the borders of law and buries his own moral rules in order to help. It's just that here it's not about helping the best friend, but his own kid (same them as in another Romanian production that I liked - Child's Pose) but by doing this he becomes the master of her destiny - is this really for her good? His goal is to save her from the generalized atmosphere of corruption, from the endless chain of relations the Romanian society and life seem to be built upon, but in order to save her from the system he needs to become part of it. This is the second important theme. The Romanian director seems seems to look around in anger, at his own broken dreams, at the lost opportunities of his generation who could have made a difference but did not have the courage to do it, ending in compromise.

The role of Adrian Titieni is very similar with the one in Illegitimate which I had seen in the previous evening at the festival, but more complex, and the direction style is very different. Mungiu seems to control very tight his actors and makes sure that all intended nuances are there, while Adrian Sitaru, the director of Illegitimate gave much more freedom to the actors, who could improvise and build their own version of the characters. The result is impressing in both movies, confirming Titieni as one of the best film actors of his generation.

Interestingly enough, the two movies end both in similar manners, with a still snapshot photo - in this case the traditional picture of the high-school class at the end of the graduation ceremony. Everybody smiles to the future, but what all the film told us is that the future is uncertain. Will the next generation have the courage and the luck to be the generation of the change?
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Another wonder of Romanian cinematography
davidbasic17 March 2017
Fist of all, Romanian movies are the most unique movies I've ever seen, so they deserve to be watched and talked about among those who watch. Bacalaureat (Graduation) is an example how you can make a masterpiece without extraordinary script, how you can see the very best of acting without some special dialogues, effects, etc. For those who are admirers of Hollywood this is not a perfect thing to watch. There is nothing special in this movie, nothing extraordinary, uncommon... However Bacalaureat is one of the most beautiful thing I've seen during the last few years. Romanians should be teachers to the other directors. I'm not sure if Romanians should say "thanks" to communism and isolation during the last century, I am not sure whether this is their way to express the feelings that they've had in the past. I am sure that this movie is a diamond among overambitious titles.
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A realistic portrayal of a Romanian family in crisis
williammjeffery1 July 2017
A realistic Romanian drama about the struggles, compromises and implications of the parent's role in a family. This is a really intelligent, well made film that gives a bleak representation of contemporary life in Romania, particularly the youth who are told by their previous generation that they must hope and start fresh in a depressing state, though they are searching for their identities themselves. I liked that the film didn't stretch the emotional depth to a point that it seemed too unlikely or cliché but rather describe an honest family situation. It did in places fall flat but it's ambiguous ending alludes to the mysteries and uncertainty of life which serves the premise of the film nicely.
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Gives a complete joy of cinema, without forcing aesthetic concerns
fanierkan14 October 2016
I have seen "graduation" at Filmekimi film festival in Istanbul today. Apart from the plot and impressive acting, I would like to point out a compelling detail about the movie: More than many times we watch the Romeo peeling and slicing several fruits such as apple, lemon and orange very skilfully, implying the analogy between this diligent action and his career as an experienced surgeon. There were also some hints in the movie resembling somewhat Nuri Bilge Ceylan's films. (Breaking of window glass in very first scene, suspicious interventions of the private life, etc). Nevertheless, Bacalaureat is a good sample of cinema which maintains the tension and asks unanswered questions throughout.
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A father's desperate attempt for his daughter.
Reno-Rangan14 May 2017
From the director of 'Beyond the Hills'. I have not seen many Romanian films, but a couple of his films, so I had an anticipation and it fulfilled that. If you are familiar with his works, you will love it too as well. It is an Oscar material like 'Toni Erdmann', but Romania had sent a different film. The film had achieved multiple things, including majorly highlighting the social issues and the education system, particularly from the parent's perspective. But it is basically about a father and his desperate attempts for his daughter for her better future. So it is something like 'Fathers & Daughter', but on one particular topic and the on- screen presentation was so realistic without the background score.

Everything revolved around what the title suggested. A father who is professionally a doctor wants to provide a better education for his daughter. While facing a series of vandalism, his family gets a major shock after an unexpected terrible event. It was just before the daughter's annual exam. So it seems they're all disturbed by it, but the father is still not giving up on his daughter's exam, which requires a better score to get into the best university in the world. Apart from that, his other side of the personal and professional life takes some major turns. The film reveals all his struggles while breaking some moral laws.

❝Sometimes, in life, it's the result that counts.❞

The tale was told from the father's perspective and that character was seen almost in every frame. A good father knows what's best for his child, but sometimes crossing limits is what they do because of love and care. On the other hand, growing up kids, especially turning eighteen means that's when they actually begin to meet the real world. So basically they want to lose their parents' influence in their life as much as possible like when a baby bird starting to stretch its wings. Those stuffs were not prioritised here, but understandable from the developments we witness.

From the social aspect, the corruption and educational demands, that's especially in the high scoring contest were the deriving plots from the main. The film could have been 10-15 minutes shorter if the father's professional side of the tale was not covered. It looked unnecessary, but fairly the part of the story when a slice of his life was what this film is about. I think not everybody sees the film's intention which is definitely not entertainment, nor inspiration, but kind of fact based on the parents.

Yeah, I would have done almost the same as what the father has done in this. But due to some parallel developments in the main story, he had to face extra pressure from his own family. So unexpected way the narration takes the turn towards the final section. That's disappointing if you had supported the father from the very beginning. But a lesson he had learnt for his approach to deal the affair that he thought is slipping away from his master plan.

Overall, a very good film, something you will learn how some people plan to deal a difficult stage of their life that's impacted by other surrounding developments. My only, slight disappointment was the crime part of the story which did not meet my expectation, but in most of the case that's how reality would be. So this is for particularly the drama film fans, because coping with the pace requires a little patience.

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Well acted, well directed, probably realistic...but not entertaining at ALL
maurodc20 July 2017
This was probably the most disappointing independent film I have ever seen. I was expecting something thrilling, shocking and far more interesting than this. The situations are coherent, but it seemed like something that we see day by day; something that eventually we will manage to resolve by ourselves like a question on an exam. Something completely indifferent.

The acting was descent, if not great. I would liked that the actress who played Eliza had more scenes, because her performance was the best thing of this movie. Romeo was good, but he had scenes that were very long and boring to death. Everyone else was find I guess.

The script was realistic but, as I said before, it was like a bunch of conversations that we hear or have every day, nothing special actually.

If you are expecting a shocking and unforgettable movie, this is not for you, because believe me, it is completely forgettable and probably you will want to have your time and money back, maybe as much as I do.
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life in alternating steps between corruption and honesty
johntheholder27 September 2016
There is no doubt , Cristian Mungiu is a fine director. Ten minutes into the film you can see that clearly. He is not scared to diverge from the path , f.e , a tracking shot with a shaking camera. Yes this has been done in some other films such as the realistic cheap horror flicks "REC" or "blair witch project" but its hardly the same.

The protagonist (the father) carried the film with no problem. The other characters were okay as well.

The plot was interesting and refreshing , but it did repeat itself in the second half of the film somewhat. That was the only problem i had with it. Photography was great , even though it's just an ugly romanian little town with projects and not much architecture , yet the colors within that mundane environment were rich and fine.

Overall it is a thoughtful film that raises questions on the sacrifices that are needed in life , and also of various little tricks and gimmicks one should be aware and keep an eye on. In the end , honesty and corruption can often change hands , you just have to deal with the card you've been dealt. A serious good film , if you want a fine social drama.
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Crushed Between Principle and Fatherly Love
marsanobill28 May 2017
It's probably better to wait for Netflix on this, a pretty good—but not THAT good—film set in the post-Ceaușescu era, where Eliza is about to realize the dream of her parents: escape from gritty, grubby, backward Romania to a real future in civilized England. She has tentatively won a college scholarship there and needs only to pass her upcoming high-school final to confirm it, but a shattering sexual assault has left her in no condition to take the test, let alone focus sufficiently to pass it. School bureaucrats' refusal to allow a postponement means the scholarship could be lost. The only solution lies in the sordid game of cronyism, bribes, favors and under-table, back-scratch deals that has long been a necessary coping mechanism for people under repressive regimes. Thus the moral crisis for Eliza's father: he's a surgeon, not only good but honest. He won't take bribes, favors and gifts for doing his job (people think he's joking when he refuses their 'incentive money'), but can he, this one time, in these extreme circumstances, dirty his hands just a little to save his daughter's future?
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This movie seems to be a frustrated view about the own people...
qeter2 November 2016
Seen at the Viennale 2016: I myself living in a country not so far away from Romania, I can understand the frustration of Cristian Mungiu. Some similarities with Austria in the suburban area exist. He shows how a failed population must find corrupt solutions to be able to live their daily life's. It is a very precise observation, how fathers of families are under pressure to bring all the pieces together. Sadly Mungiu wants to deal with too many problems at the same time. So he fails to leave a deeper impact. What we see is a perfect copy of a possible true life. But nothing beyond that. Filmmaking should also include a vision, or art, or fantastic elements. Some kind of magic. Without any magic - no wonder that people become corrupt.
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Rather Pointless really
samnaji-1538330 July 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Wow - that was a slog !

You would think that a film that is over 2 hours long would have something to say or a dramatic narrative that is punchy or deep. In this film almost nothing of any consequence happens.

There is an attack on a young girl that is left unresolved and goes nowhere. There is a sub-plot of girlfriend who could be pregnant and wants to move on with her life that is left unresolved and goes nowhere. There is a story of the main character, a doctor, who tries to help his daughter with her high school grades by scratching some backs, which is the main story arc of the story, that ultimately again goes nowhere. Even the police investigation is another red herring on what promised to be a development of plot.

So what is the point of this film ?.

That corruption exists among the elites and would-be elites ?. That is hardly a shocker, even if the setting is Romania.

This film could be have told in a TV one-off drama that lasted no more than 60 minutes because nothing is resolved and anything of consequence had no impact by the time the credits rolled.

Save yourself 2 hours of your life. Don't bother.

As for the high praise this film is getting either I am missing something of profound importance or the Emperor has no clothes.
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Get your diploma in great film drama.
jdesando12 May 2017
A small Romanian film has universal implications: How do good people get drawn into corruption even if the ramifications are hardly worth the danger? Graduation tells of a decent doctor's (Romeo, Adrian Titeni) attempt to game the testing system so his daughter, Eliza (Maria Dragus) can go to the UK to study.

However, beyond this infraction lie other small corruptions that characterize a middle class in decline.Romeo has a mistress at his daughter's school. Because his wife is emotionally needy, his daughter sees her father's extramarital connection in need of addressing and expunging.

Although European mores are more accepting of these transgressions, the film implies that they nevertheless corrode everywhere. The film's pace is almost serene in the face of implications from an investigation into the cheating and the questionable actions of her boyfriend surrounding her assault. It seems no facet of the doctor's life is free from the ramifications of his peccadilloes.

The dialogue is spare but poignant--each character expresses feelings true to his or her development. The system is rife with corruption--no news to those who know Romania over the years. Yet built in is a subtle Nemesis waiting to pounce. While no single action of the doctor is earth moving, Romeo suffers the scorn of his wife and daughter, and he is slowly losing his mistress as she awakens to the needs of her future.

If you like character-driven drama with a modest dose of sermonizing but pleasant verbal dexterity throughout, then see Graduation. Everyone gets a diploma in life navigation:

"Eliza, you have to do your best. It'd be a pity to miss this chance. Some important steps in life depend on small things. And some chances shouldn't be wasted. You know, in '91, your Mum and I decided to move back. It was a bad decision." Romeo
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New corruption same as the old corruption
gortx30 April 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Cristian Mungiu is considered one of the fathers of New Romanian Cinema, with his 4 MONTHS, 3 WEEKS AND 2 DAYS abortion drama being the most famous to come out after the fall of the Soviet Union. Mungiu is more cinematic than some of the directors of the movement (his last movie, BEYOND THE HILLS was a devil possession tale), although still austere.

The superb GRADUATION builds along slowly, but deliberately. In the end, the movie is about corruption, but, the steps it takes seem as minor as an offhand conversation here, a nod there. But, that's how things work in a corrupt society. GRADUATION may not quite build to the level of the brilliant Russian film LEVIATHAN, but, they share a quietly devastating portrayal of the bankruptcy of the old Soviet system. Sadly, that system seems to have been replaced in name only.
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Bad summary
Argenredman4 March 2017
Warning: Spoilers
It raises some interesting issues: divorce, teens future, infidelity, rape, pregnancy, harassment neighborhood, up to foniatric problems... The problem is that not solves nothing.

Aside from the above, the entire film takes place in a permanent whisper, without change of intonation of none of the characters.

It is not badly acted, is not misdirected, but is not going anywhere.
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A horrible waste of time
uripinhasi9 January 2017
This must be one of the slowest, pointless and most disappointing movies I have ever seen. The creator probably had an idea for a story but stopped right there. If this was a 10 min 2nd year project in film school, it might have passed, but at 2:08 (that's 2 HOURS and 8 min!) its just a very poor excuse for the "quality foreign film" label. Every scene is dragged to at least 10 times what should have been its length. The questions the film is meant to deal with - parenting, Ideals, morals, state vs. citizen - are lost in vector-less hovering of each and every character. I would gladly have written a spoiler but I can think of no way to spoil this any further.
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After his daughter is assaulted before a series of exams which will determine the trajectory of her life, her father makes the type of decisions which could risk everything.
Amari-Sali18 January 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Noted Actor(s)

Romeo (Adrian Titieni) | Eliza (Maria-Victoria Dragus)

Characters & Storyline

From the way Dr. Romeo paints Romania, you could understand why he would want his daughter Eliza to go to school as far away as the UK. He makes it seem riddled with corruption and criminals roaming the streets, a place he should have never returned to but he thought he could change it. So with all that in mind, he is willing to do whatever it takes so when Eliza takes her final exams, her pending scholarship to a prestigious UK university will be paid for and guaranteed. However, the world he fears the corruption of gets to her before she can escape.


For The Sake of the Children vs. The Sake of the Country

One of the things I found interesting within this movie, though sadly isn't a strong focus, is the idea of whether it is best to send your children to a foreign country to learn and plant roots vs. them perhaps getting a foreign education and returning home with that knowledge. The reason this was of interest is because Romeo really paints Romania as a terrible place. Yet his mother asks, why would you push her to leave and never return? If girls like her don't return, what hopes are there for the country to become better? An idea which, with Donald Trump soon to be the President of the USA, is an interesting one. For many have threatened, though likely not have followed through, to immigrate to different countries to avoid the consequences of his presidency. Yet, relating to this movie, if those who seem capable of creating change or at least crafting hope leave and never return, what does that mean for a country's future?

This topic, unfortunately, is mentioned only a handful of times and isn't made anything which most may find noteworthy. However, in a sea of one mundane moment to the next, it was perhaps the one intriguing thought this movie presented.


From The Assault, Affair, and Corruption, Everything Is Mundane

It's very weird when a person is assaulted, borderline raped, there is an affair in a movie, and there is a slew of corruption and even an investigation into it, yet there isn't one thing which can be considered exciting. Each character, and perhaps the story itself, almost seems like it is downplaying all of these events. The assault isn't treated as something huge, just a hindrance to Eliza getting the grades she needs to guarantee her getting into university. The affair plot is all but accepted and with neither woman involved happy, nor you understanding how and why they fell in love with Romeo, again there isn't something to really get and keep your attention.

Leaving the political corruption. As Romeo tries to figure out a way to give his daughter an edge, he deals with a customs agent, introduced by a police chief, who wants a liver for a favor. Leading to the test administrator being involved and while this all may be a minor scandal, a doctor pushing for an official to get a liver to help his daughter get high marks on a test, everything is handled without a hint of sensationalism, enthusiasm, or anything to snag your attention. Which if this movie was simply an hour, maybe even an hour and a half, that would be unfortunate. But with it being two hours long and none of these usually interesting or at least devastating to watch topics being of interest, that is a damn shame.

On The Fence

There Aren't Any Bad Performances, Per se

It's kind of weird to say in a movie so dull there aren't bad performances. To me, I'm just so used to someone taking the lead, being passionate, conniving, or even comical. Yet, like Loving, in some ways, no one tries to step forward and stand out. For even if Romeo has the most scenes, the writing and performance doesn't make him seem like what you'd expect from a lead actor. If anything, he more so seems like he is part of an ensemble and is just taking on more of the movie's focus due to one of the other actors being sick, having schedule conflicts, or simply being unreliable.

Overall: Negative (Skip It)

As noted, across many a review, passionate performances, troubled or worrisome childhoods, comedic moments, that is what I live for. That, nine times out of ten, is what excites me no matter if it is a book, movie, TV show, video game, or a theatrical production. Yet, despite this movie having many elements of what usually leads to good performances and an entertaining experience, it falls short. It falls off a cliff actually. However, it doesn't necessarily seem bad. It is just that the movie takes a path not often tread and the lack of emotion, someone with charisma, and no one who really snags you makes it hard to be faithful to a two-hour movie. So, while I want to say this is something which is Mixed, I have to give it a negative rating.
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Waste of time
richard-905095 June 2017
Total waste of my time. Kept waiting for something (anything!!) to happen. It just meanders along leaving plot holes, unexplained events, and unresolved issues in its wake. Starts nowhere, does nothing, ends nowhere.

The high ratings of other reviewers must have been written by the artsy/fartsy intellectual types who swoon in rapturous joy as they ascribe significance to pretentiousness.
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Another top-notch film from Romanian director Cristian Mungiu
paul-allaer7 May 2017
"Bacalaureat" (2016 release from Romania; 128 min; US title "Graduation") brings the story of Dr. Aldea and his daughter Eliza. As the movie opens, some throws a stone at the window of the Aldea apartment. We have no idea why. We then get to know Dr. Aldea and Eliza (Aldea's wife Magda remains in the background due to real or perceived illness). Eliza is about to graduate and she already has two offers from great UK universities (with a full scholarship). All that stands between her and the UK are her last finals, where she needs to average a 9 out of 10 to be eligible for the scholarships. Then, one day before the first final, Eliza is assaulted during an attempted rape attack. That obviously overwhelms Eliza, and even though she is in no state to sit for the final, her dad insists that she does anyway. She only scores an 8. At this point we're 15 min, into the movie, but to tell you more of the plot would ruin your viewing experience, you'll just have to see how it all plays out.

Couple of comments: this is the latest project from Romanian writer-director Cristian Mungiu, best known for "4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days", but truth be told, that guy seemingly can do no wrong (in my book at least). Here, Mungiu brings yet another morality story set in your average Romanian environment. A middle-class doctor in a small city (Cluj) is looking out for his daughter's best interest, and his whole life is focused on giving Eliza the opportunity to escape Romania and start a new life in England. When not everything goes to plan, the doctor faces a moral dilemma: to try and influence the result, something that goes against everything he stands for and has taught Eliza, or do nothing and risk losing Eliza's opportunity to study in England. The movie approaches this dilemma in a nuanced way, and there is no easy "black or white" answer or solution. Along the way we get to know a number of secondary (but important) characters, including Eliza's boyfriend, the doctor's lover, and others. The acting performances are top-notch throughout, but none more so than Adrian Titieni (who won the Best Actor award at last year's Canned Film Festival, where the movie premiered).

The movie finally arrived at my local art-house theater here in Cincinnati last weekend, and I couldn't wait to see it. The Sunday early evening screening was attended nicely, I am happy to report. That sad, given the overall tone of the movie, I can't see this playing in theaters very long, unfortunately. If you are up for another top-notch film from one of the best European directors these days, you cannot got wrong with this. "Bacalaureat" is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
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