Graduation (Bacalaureat)

Romanian director Cristian Mungiu’s latest drama sees a chain of events unfold after a promising student (Maria-Victoria Dragus) is attacked outside her school, an incident that affects her ability to excel in a crucial exam with a scholarship to the University of Cambridge riding on the outcome. Her father Romeo – a doctor played with considerable skill and subtlety by Adrian Titieni – already appears to have a complicated life before he starts to interfere in proceedings, trading favours with local policemen, exam supervisors and grubby politicians; but the attacks that are already occurring on his home and car by a mostly-unseen vandal – incidents that are likely linked to the disintegration of his marriage/an affair with a local teacher – seem insignificant once the authorities discover his corrupt practices and begin to apply pressure for their own ends. Despite the fact the film is obviously commenting on widespread corruption throughout Romanian society, its focus never strays too far from the father-daughter relationship as it enters a new phase, and one finds out a lot more about the other’s character; by the end there is a quietly devastating sense of a loss of innocence and a loss of trust. It has an excellent script by Mungiu and there’s a really impressive ensemble performance at its heart. Bleak and downbeat, but also sincere and thoughtful. (****)