Since the turn of the 21st century, Romanian cinema has thrived, as a new wave of filmmakers crafting distinctively naturalistic, minimalist endeavours, mostly casting a harsh light into working class society. And they’ve been recognised too, with Child’s Pose taking home top prize at the Berlinale back in 2013, and Christian Mungiu’s 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days doing the same in Cannes by winning the Palme d’Or. The helmer of the latter production returns now with his latest picture Graduation, and it’s completely, both tonally, and narratively, within this same movement, as fans of the Romanian New Wave are sure to find plenty to admire about this nuanced character drama.

Adrian Titieni plays Romeo Aldea, a doctor who strives, tirelessly, to give his teenage daughter Eliza (Maria-Victoria Dragus) a life he never had, hoping she will pass her forthcoming exams and be granted a scholarship at a university in England – though amidst the frenzy and pressure of the exams Eliza is sitting, she is sexually assaulted by a man on the street, and a case to find the disturbed attacker is opened. Wanting nothing more than to see his daughter succeed in life, Romeo, who is having an affair with a single mother, is willing to cut a few corners and pull a few strings for Eliza, pushing him down into a deep hole of deceit, for when somebody scratches your back, chances are, they’ll want the favour returned.

Graduation Review In spite of the fact it appears that everybody communicates in riddles as there’s so many backhanders going on, while it’s hard to keep on top of who owes what to who, it’s this very conversation that works as something of a catalyst into Romanian society, learning so much about their culture along the way, with Mungiu not afraid to study the more detrimental aspects of it. We see the world through the eyes of Romeo, and to call the character flawed would be something of an understatement, as he seems hellbent on making mistakes, but we can’t help but root for him, hoping he comes out on top, as in spite of the imperfections and bad decisions, we always understand and appreciate his intentions, as he wants nothing more than to carve a bright future for his only child.

In spite of the series of predicaments he faces and hurdles to overcome, Mungiu somehow manages to avoid being overtly theatrical, maintaing the realism of the piece and its commitment to authenticity, shot in such a way that when dramatic situations occur, rather than see them as being false, we adhere to them and remain emotionally involved, never veering into the realm of the melodrama, which, if you were to simply read the screenplay beforehand, you’d be rather surprised to hear is the case.

Graduation is released on March 31st