TIFF 2016 Review: “Graduation” (2016) ★★★★★


What is a parent’s role besides looking after its child and protect him from negativity and bad influence of the outside world? Providing any support required to get the best education, raise a child to become a well-respected citizen who can find its own flow in society. But what if the parent goes way beyond its responsibilities and becomes too obsessive about the future of its child? Of course, there should be no issues with that except the implications that eventually will bring everyone to the point of questioning whether all these efforts were worth it or not…

GRADUATION is set in Romania in a time when corruption is at every level of government, including education. Romeo is a well-respected surgeon who can help out any patient in a very delicate manner. Eliza is his daughter, who is intelligent enough to not seek for her father’s help. But one day, on her way to do an important test she has been sexually assaulted and nearly escaped from being raped. When she gets another chance to pass her test before she moves to England to study, her mind is messed up, tired and stressed which makes her father to fear about the outcome of her test…

When the tragedy occurs, Romeo is more devastated not about her daughter being attacked, but her state of mind that won’t allow her to keep her focus during exam. That, for those who are from Western part of Europe will become familiar with everything that happens afterwards, when the concept of “one hand washing another” is so obvious. The interesting fact is, everybody uses a nice name such as “favour” instead corruption, which is what happens when Romeo, after meeting with a few people, arranges a successful outcome for her daughter.

However, that is not the only thing Romeo has to deal with, as he dates another woman who soon finds out about her pregnancy. His daughter does not see her future the same way her father sees. In fact, Romeo explains to his wife that the life they had in Romania is good, but was miserable. And he strongly believes that if Eliza accepts the scholarship in London, she will succeed in life more than her parents. But the reality is, parents might know really well what is best for their child, however, when a child is already grown up, she will have her own opinion about her prospects in life.

GRADUATION is cleverly written and directed by Cristian Mungiu who captures brilliantly a complex issue with delicate approach. As a writer, he always sympathizes with Romeo in his attempt to build a better life for his daughter. Even the police officers, who came to the hospital to inquire about Romeo’s patient, at first they were not so willing, but later on understand the reasons Romeo had as a father, when he had to go through illegal activities.

In conclusion, GRADUATION is a powerful drama about a father-and-daughter relationship, parenting, and the actions which must be taken to preserve the bright future of a child. But it also teaches that sometimes that child needs to be left alone to chose a life of its own, even if that life may not be the same the parents wanted. But what we learn from Eliza is that her vulnerability and psychological condition after the attack does not change much, but rather helps her to see life with mature eyes. Because she has always been intelligent and capable of passing any exam, it’s just the father who should, I guess, have a bit more faith in his daughter and let her graduate the way she wants.

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