Get your diploma by watching a super European drama.
Director: Cristian Mungiu (4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 days)
Cast: Adrien Titieni, Maria-Victoria Dragus
Runtime: 2 hr 8 min
by John DeSando
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
John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.rr.com