By William Wolf

NEW YORK FILM FESTIVAL 2016--GRADUATION  Send This Review to a Friend

Ethical questions are put into sharp focus in director Cristian Mungiu’s Romanian film, “Graduation,” which explores the way beneficial trade-offs are made in an atmosphere in which favors are expected to get favors in return.

The issues are raised when Dr. Romeo Aldea, played smoothly by Adrian Titieni, desperately wants his daughter to pass her crucial high school exam so that she can take advantage of a scholarship in Britain. He also feels it important to get her out of Romania in order to have a better life.

His daughter, Eliza, played with teenage cool by Maria Dragus, fights off an intended rape attack near her school the day before the exam. Meanwhile, amidst his concern for her, Dr. Aldea sets out to guarantee that she indeed passes her exam.

He gets himself into a jam after he makes a bargain involving elevating a government official on the list for a liver transplant in exchange for another official with influence to put on pressure to be sure that Eliza passes.

There will be complications for Dr. Aldea, and Eliza, upon learning what her father has done, is herself faced with an ethical issue. She is not looking for help. She doesn’t even want especially to go to England.

The film’s strength is how it meticulously delves in low-key fashion into various aspects of life—what it is like at home for Eliza, the atmosphere at the hospital where the doctor practices, the kind of wheeling and dealing that occurs, the infighting triggered by the circumstances and the differences between generations—all within the realm of life in Romania. A Sundance Selects release. Reviewed December 12, 2016.


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