Masters

Graduation

Cristian Mungiu

Cristian Mungiu (4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days) won the Best Director prize at Cannes for this terse, percolating drama about a Cluj physician who goes to highly questionable lengths to ensure his daughter’s academic success.

Like a stone hurled through the windowpane of a tranquil domestic space, the latest from Romania's Cristian Mungiu (4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days) shatters the veneer of normalcy. Graduation, which won Mungiu the Best Director prize at Cannes, is a morality play in which good intentions cannot ward off corruption.

Cluj physician Romeo Aldea (Adrian Titieni) is determined to ensure that his daughter, Eliza (Maria-Victoria Dragus), takes the express route to success. His wife, Magda (Lia Bugnar), seems largely exhausted, or possibly depressed, but Romeo has more than enough initiative for the whole family.

One day Eliza is attacked by a strange man near her school, in what appears to be an attempted rape. Romeo is distraught, as any parent would be, but largely because he fears the incident will distract Eliza from acing the exams that will help her get into what he deems the right school. However, Romeo is already somewhat distracted himself — his name provides a clue as to what's occupying his attention — which is not a good state for him to be in while he goes to questionable lengths to ensure Eliza's academic success.

Restrained but never coy, Mungiu is a master of terse, steadily percolating drama. Even in moments of seeming repose, such as Graduation's many two-shots of Romeo negotiating with another person, we feel tension escalating, obstacles burgeoning, and stakes rising. Mungiu is a filmmaker who takes nothing in human nature for granted. He understands that every one of us, even the most inconspicuous, has a story.

DIMITRI EIPIDES

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