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June 13, 2016

GRADUATION — CANNES 2016

BacalaureatCannes, France — Romania’s prime art-house representative Cristian Mungiu comes up short on the promise of his fifth feature film. Lacking the direct storyline of “4 Months 3 Weeks and 2 Days,” “Bacalaureat” is relevant in thematic terms but aims in too many directions at once. A recurring plot aspect of rocks being thrown from unknown assailants, gives the film a social atmosphere teetering on the surreal.

Adrian Titieni gives a credible performance as Romeo, a playboy physician (at least by the standards of his small mountain town) in Transylvania. While Romeo prepares to leave his wife for another (younger) woman, his daughter Eliza (Maria-Victoria Dragus) is sexually attacked on her way to final exams that could send her to Oxford on scholarship. Eliza manages to fight off the attacker, but gets bruised up in the battle.

With an injured writing arm, and dislocated mental state, Eliza naturally blows the test. One of Romeo’s patients is Vice Mayor Bulia (Petre Ciubotaru), a man in desperate need of a liver transplant. It doesn’t take much imagination to envision how this already ethically irresponsible character will turn, especially if it means guaranteeing his daughter's escape from Romania.

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“Bacalaureat” suffers from too many narrative threads that don't resolve. The film’s climax feels pedestrian even if the filmmakers’ intentions ring true. I wanted to like this film, but it just didn’t make the cut.

Not Rated. 128 mins. (C-) (Two stars — out of five / no halves)

Cannes 69 Complete from Cole Smithey on Vimeo.

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