Pressures on young people happen every day. Pressures to behave, fit in, look good – but for Eliza, her father pressures her to pass her exams to secure the U.K. scholarship to escape their Romanian town. During the course of three days of exams, many suspicious and tragic events occur. The film does not provide solutions to all of these incidents, but at the centre is a loving dad with lots of problems, compromising his principles to ensure his daughter will move forward & not be trapped as he feels.
Long takes and lingering shots abound throughout Graduation. The first notable action is a stone being hurled through a window, and the camera briefly but notably lingers on the hole in the glass left behind before cutting to the lead-up to the fateful incident which will change the lives of graduating senior Eliza and her parents. It’s a subtle touch, but it overshadows the film and the events which break up other lives as well.
As Romeo (Eliza’s father) attempts to take matters into his own hands and ensure the best future for his daughter, he repeatedly tells himself and others that he does not do these sort of dishonest things and he’s above them, but he’s only making an exception to preserve what his daughter has worked toward all her life. The central question of the film, therefore, becomes: is he really better than this? His intentions are certainly honourable, and yet, the film repeatedly asks if a worthwhile price such as that is a justifiable reason. More notably, as he continues trying to control his daughter’s life, his rationalisations become more about himself and less about her interests, which culminates in a series of surprisingly harsh scenes.
The balance of sympathy and criticism for Romeo as the film quietly observes his choices is pulled off remarkably. On the one hand, it’s never possible to escape the consequences of one’s actions, but there are sometimes simpler and better ways through difficult times, and the film’s straightforward acknowledgement of that is reflected in the first lingering shot of joy at the titular graduation.
Crime, Drama | Romania, 2016 | 15 | 15th May 2017 (UK) | Curzon Artificial Eye | Dir.Cristian Mungiu | Adrian Titieni, Maria-Victoria Dragus, Lia Bugnar | Buy:Graduation [Blu-ray]