Seeing three films in a row is hard, particularly when they are 4pm, 6.30pm and 9pm sessions with only enough time in between to power walk to the next venue. Knowing that the Graduation was a 2-hour Romanian social realist drama, I didn’t have a lot of confidence that I would make it through to the end. I found myself, though, absorbed and swept up in a story about Romania and parenting and regret and acceptance.
We meet Romeo, a solid and respected doctor, and his daughter, Eliza. She is about to take her final school exams and has been offered scholarships to universities in England but only if she does well in her exams. On her way to school she is sexually assaulted by an unknown assailant. Emotionally shaken and with her arm in a cast, she struggles to complete an exam and her opportunity to escape a limited future in Romania, in her parents’ eyes, is in doubt.
There are several threads that interweave through this film. We understand Romeo’s sense of regret that his return to Romania in the 90s, full of optimism that he and his wife could change the country for the better, was misguided. This underpins his hope for his daughter, that she will take the opportunities he gave up. We can see Eliza’s indecision about what is important in her life and the best path to take. We also see the need, in Romania, to do favours and bend the rules in order to get ahead. This moral question about what ‘wrong’ you will do for the sake of another person is at the heart of the story. Each of the main characters must make that decision and it is not an easy one.
I liked where this story went and there are some beautiful and subtle moments of acceptance. The final frame says a lot, I think, and underlines the title of the film.
Bechdel test – pass