ⓘ Graduation (2016 film)

Graduation (2016 film)

ⓘ Graduation (2016 film)

Graduation is a 2016 Romanian-language tragedy film produced, written, and directed by Cristian Mungiu and starring Adrian Titieni and Maria-Victoria Dragus. Set in Transylvania, the film focuses on a doctors quest to fix his daughters exam results by underhanded means. It was selected to compete for the Palme dOr at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival. At Cannes, Mungiu shared the Best Director Award with Olivier Assayas for his film Personal Shopper. At the 8th Magritte Awards, it received a nomination in the category of Best Foreign Film in Coproduction.


1. Plot

Romeo is a middle-aged doctor employed at a local hospital in the Romanian city of Cluj-Napoca. He lives with his wife, Magda, and their 18-year-old daughter, Eliza, who has just won a scholarship to Cambridge University. She is preparing to write her final exams and needs to maintain a grade of at least 90%. Romeo is a doting father and drives Eliza to school regularly.

Romeos girlfriend, Sandra, is a teacher at Elizas school. One day while visiting Sandra he receives a message: Eliza has been assaulted near her school. She has a sprained wrist and is emotionally shaken up but is not seriously injured. She reveals that the assailant tried to rape her but did not succeed.

The next day Eliza must sit for her first examination. The headmaster tries to exclude her because she is wearing a cast on her wrist - notes can be hidden in a cast. Sandra intervenes and the headmaster backs down. The cast slows her writing and time runs out before she is finished - she will need nearly perfect results on the remaining exams to claim her scholarship.

At the police station the chief inspector suggests to Romeo that Elizas exam results can be fixed in exchange for expediting a liver transplant for a corrupt official, a Mr. Bulai.

That evening Romeo discusses the plan with Magda and she immediately rejects it - she fears the ubiquitous corruption in Romania will infect Elizas fresh start at Cambridge. Romeo argues that the exams are a mere formality, otherwise meaningless. She is unmoved. Romeo presents the plan to Eliza and implores her to accept a little help now to ensure a brighter future. She listens equivocally.

The next day Romeo waits at the school for Eliza to complete her second exam. He encounters her boyfriend, Marius and they chat amicably. Romeo gets more details of the morning of the attack and is put off by Marius aloofness of the whole incident. Because he was late, Eliza was left on her own. He also assumed Eliza went off to class and did not seek her out. Eliza and Marius go off together on his motorbike.

Eliza discovers Romeos affair with Sandra. She threatens to skip her exams if he doesnt tell Magda about it immediately. She wonders aloud whether her other grades were also "fixed". At home that evening Magda and Romeo talk. Magda already knew about Sandra and will try to get Eliza to take her last exam, but she also asks Romeo to move out.

The next day Romeo arrives for work at the hospital and is confronted by a pair of prosecutors. They want to interview Romeos patient, Mr. Bulai, about corruption allegations against him. Romeo resists because Bulai is waiting for the promised liver transplant and is also quite ill. The prosecutors caution Romeo they are aware of the quid-pro-quo for his daughters exams - both he and Eliza could be facing charges themselves.

Romeo visits the police station again. The chief inspector assures him that his daughters assailant will soon be identified in a police line-up. Later that day he sees Marius and invites him to view the lineup even though Marius says he did not witness the attack. He refuses and Romeo accuses him of cowardice for not intervening but for only calling the cops after witnessing the assault. Romeo orders Marius to stay away from Eliza, but Marius pushes him away. That evening at the police station Eliza fails to identify an attacker, even with prodding by the police officers there. Romeo sees one of the suspected attackers and follows him, but gets lost in a bad area. He ends up at Sandras place and agrees to babysit her son.

The next day Mr. Bulai has died of a heart attack. The prosecutors are waiting and assure Romeo that the investigation into Mr. Bulais crimes will continue. Romeo gets Sandras son Matei in a speech therapy program. Romeo sees Eliza at her graduation and she mentions that the teachers allowed her to write past the three hour time, and did not require Romeo negotiations for a better grade. Eliza also tells that she is not going to go England. Romeo asks the prosecutors to come next Monday and he will co-operate with them for any of their questions.


2. Cast

  • Lia Bugnar - Magda
  • Gelu Colceag - Exam committee president
  • Vlad Ivanov - Chief Inspector
  • Malina Manovici - Sandra
  • Maria Draguș - Eliza Aldea, an 18-year-old high school student planning to study psychology abroad in the United Kingdom after graduating
  • Adrian Titieni - Romeo Aldea, a 49 year old physician living in a Transylvanian town with his daughter
  • Rareș Andrici - Marius

3. Production

According to Cristian Mungiu, the film was inspired by his own life at the time, while he was focusing on being a father. The film was produced through the directors company Mobra Films and co-produced with Why Not Productions, Wild Bunch, Les Films du Fleuve, France 3 Cinema and Mandragora Movies. It received 1.91 million leu from the National Film Center. It was shot in the town Victoria from 11 June to 24 July 2015.


4. Reception

On Rotten Tomatoes, Graduation has a rating of 95%, based on 127 critics, with an average rating of 8.2/10. The websites critical consensus reads, Graduation marks yet another well-written and powerfully acted look at morality and societal decay from writer-director Cristian Mungiu." On Metacritic, Graduation holds a score of 84/100, based on 30 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".

Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian lauded it as an "intricate, deeply intelligent film".

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