Graduation (aka Bacalaureat / Recycling Feelings) review by Adrijan Arsovski - Cinema Paradiso
Graduation is the most unique Romanian film ever put to screen – that’s for sure. It’s 100% free of special effects, big budgets, ego-driven actors, explosive twists, or anything of the sorts. Yet Graduation is infinitely better than most of the recent commercial Hollywood drivel (with some exceptions) and is a true statement in how dramas are supposed to be made: to make you feel and live their characters’ story, equate with them on some fundamental human levels, understand their struggle and accept their choices as if it were your own. And so we begin.
The film starts by evoking a sense of a deeply corrupted society and throwing its protagonists right in the midst of this corrupted core. First, there’s Romeo (Adrian Titieni) – a morally righteous man who wants nothing but the best for his child. And he’s not alone in this sentiment, as more and more parents see Romania to have a bleak, irreparable future, and so the majority of the populace is convinced that there could not possibly be a chance to live a decent life. But, in a swing of poetic justice – Romeo gradually becomes what he feared the most – a cog in that same corrupt machinery that he earlier so despised.
This is a very intriguing change, as it takes place gradually over the course of the film (again, to the detriment of western audiences – no bait-and-switches here). As we follow this character forward, it becomes clear that Romeo conceives a plan, devises an action, and only then he justifies that exact action through the lenses of his dim-coloured glasses. Those same glasses that each and every citizen of Romania wears have now find home across Romeo’s eyes as well. And story-wise, Graduation ticks all the boxes of a boring European drama, but for those who can see past this stereotype, you’ll be in for a real treat.
In regards to its technical details, Graduation is not a colorful film, and it shouldn’t be such. The bleak reality of the protagonists is propagated through the bleak colours and the nihilistic tone of the film. That isn’t to say that Graduation is a pessimistic piece of cinema, since it’s not; the film very much follows an optimistic moral thread that takes the burden of times long past gone, and tells a whole new generation to right the wrongs of their predecessors. Which is easier said than done, since the system in place is already ruined for all its worth.
Ultimately, Graduation sis well-worth a watch, but don’t go in expecting anything more than a meticulously-crafted character-driven film. Written and directed by Cristian Mungiu, this one deserves your attention for sure.