GRADUATION is a film driven by moral quandaries. At the center of the film is Romeo, a doctor and father who is deeply invested in seeing his teenage daughter, Eliza, leave Romania. Eliza is smart and full of potential. Only an exam, which she is bound to pass, stands in her way to landing a scholarship to attend a British university.
If you’ve seen director Cristian Mungiu’s previous film such as 4 MONTHS, 3 WEEKS, AND 2 DAYS, or BEYOND THE HILLS, you may know that Mungiu does not let events unfold without tragedy and drama. A traumatic event prevents Eliza from performing well on her exam, and that event initiates the core action of the film.
Romeo is presented with an opportunity to “fix” Eliza’s exam, but to do so, he must get her on board. Romeo struggles with involving his daughter into his scheme, and Eliza herself is caught in a nerve-racking predicament. She wants to be a good daughter, but she also has her own principles to contend with.
The film is a powerful meditation on morality because the characters are guided by love and duty, values that many would argue should guide our decisions. But the “graduation” alluded to in the title suggests these values are also bound up with a shift from innocence to the murky ethical space that adulthood encompasses. Though that outlook may be grim for some, the film, unlike the characters in it, never compromises its integrity. GRADUATION is an emotionally difficult film that will challenge viewers in ways other films rarely do.
— Diana Martinez, Film Streams Education Director