Graduation (Bacalaureat)

Romanian director Cristian Mungiu's Graduation is one of the best films I've ever seen about corruption. You won't find many fast-talking crooks or elaborate sting operations here, though. Instead, we see mostly good people doing what they think is right, and then the acute mess that they find themselves in.

Mungiu's primary vessel for exploring this world is Dr. Romeo Aldea (Adrian Titieni), a respected Cluj physician and upstanding pillar of the community whose high-school-senior daughter Eliza (Maria Dragus) has secured a conditional college scholarship to study in Britain; all Eliza has to do is pass her final exams. But an attempted assault outside the school leaves her injured and shaken right before the day of her first test. Believing that an education in England -- far from the despair and deception of daily life in Romania -- is the girl's best chance for a better life, Romeo finds himself becoming what he hates most: someone who tries to game the system.

When Eliza's grade on that test winds up unsatisfactory, Romeo's police captain friend (Vlad Ivanov) arranges for Romeo to talk to Bulai (Petre Ciubotaru), a local bigwig who needs a liver transplant and who can arrange for the school authorities to help; all Romeo has to do is put Bulai at the top of the transplant list.

Such a cursory description of the plot does no justice to the casual, organic way that Mungiu allows Romeo to consider forsaking his values -- or at least what Romeo thinks are his values. We eventually realize that Graduation is partly about how people like Romeo have always benefited from cutting corners, from the insular security of their connections and their status.

Credits

Director:

  • Cristian Mungiu

Cast:

  • Adrian Titieni
  • Maria-Victoria Dragus
  • Lia Bugnar
  • Malina Manovici
  • Vlad Ivanov
  • Gelu Colceag
  • Rares Andrici
  • Petre Ciubotaru
  • Alexandra Davidescu

Writer:

  • Cristian Mungiu

Producer:

  • Cristian Mungiu

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