Romanian director does a great job of channeling his vision of his homeland of Romania into thrilling human scale stories of everyday "Joe's". He gained a bit of fame with his film "4 Luni, 3 Saptamani si 2 Zile" (4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days) about an illegal abortion in Romania.


This time he casts veteran actor Adrian Titieni as Romeo, a doctor who is so dissatisfied with his decision to stay in Romania, he literally lives through his high school daughter Eliza (Maria-Vistoria Dragus) to gain scholarship to go to England. To Romeo, Romania is merely a cesspool of corruption and crime that he doesn't want her to endure.


He is dissatisfied with his wife's lack of interest in Eliza's future so takes it upon himself to be his daughters coach and cheerleader. Everything is going well with Eliza practically guaranteed scholarship - all she has to do is ace the finals and she's good.

But things begin going wrong all in one day. First with a random rock through his home window and then Eliza getting sexually attacked right in front of the school. She fights off the assailant but she is left with unclear thoughts just the day before the exam.


Romeo, who considers himself above the ooze of corruption soon finds himself starting to manipulate teachers, school administrators and everyone in his way to make sure his daughter can get through the test. He even goes so far as to move one of his patients - who happens to be a very high ranked school administrator with a bum liver - up the organ donor list just so he can pave the way for Eliza.


But Eliza is suddenly not into the exam nor leaving for England. Moreover she finds out that her dear noble father is having a steamy sexual affair with a young lass named Sandra (Malina Manivici); she in turn blackmails her father into confessing to his wife Magda (Lia Bugnar). Now Romeo's life is in total disarray.


There are no car chases, shoot outs or exploding bombs but Mungiu positions our point of view we see what Romeo perceives in his daughter, his mistress, his wife, the school administrators and even his patient and police friends. You can feel the corruption building up in him yet fell his own sense of self righteousness.


Romania is depicted as livable but never inviting. Everything seems dank but not impoverished. The set lacks the lushness we get with British, French and Italian films, but there is a certain artistry to the dreariness.


"Graduation" is a brilliant examination of how morally frail even the noblest people become when confronted with seemingly insurmountable odds. Wonderful camerawork, gripping acting and very believable story makes Cristian Mungiu's latest film work.   -- GEOFF BURTON