Graduation (2016)

Graduation……………………………………………………………..

Graduation Movie Review

Graduation is a 2016 Romanian drama film directed by terrific Cristian Mungiu. It is one of the year’s finest movies.

It follows a doctor who delves deeper and deeper into corruption in order to secure his daughter’s degree and future after her unfortunate sexual assault. This is such a powerful, deeply unsettling human tale that I enjoyed immensely and I was riveted by its sheer power and how engaging its dialogue and story is.

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Graduation Movie Review……………………………………………………………..

Once again we get the signature hyper-realistic dialogue from Mungiu and he truly excels at creating real-life dramas that not only seem realistic, but the characters and the situations as well as the acting seem truly real and it was like watching real life unfold right in front of you. That’s how powerful his direction is.

Romanian cinema is truly reaching greatness and although I simply loved ‘4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days’, Graduation might even be better which is a huge accomplishment. It is one of the year’s finest movies and it quite possibly could end up being the year’s best foreign feature.

Graduation is such a thematically rich work that I was enthralled by its relatability and clever script and dialogue. First of all, I thought that they perfectly showcased corruption and its consequences and how it is always wrong no matter how right it seems. I loved its take on parenting issues and truly these parents felt super real and incredibly flawed as is the case with almost every parent out there. They basically shielded their daughter and thus ruined her capability in the real world and she definitely felt too vulnerable which was all the fault of her mother and father. They even hid their break-up from her which was just tragic to behold and super relatable as that sort of scenario happens all the time.

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Graduation Movie Review……………………………………………………………..

But I just loved every conversation regarding Eliza’s future. We see wonderfully the conflicting nature of this situation. Her mother doesn’t want her to go to Britain and she thinks that life in Romania can be perfectly solid whereas Romeo the father is desperate that she leaves the country for a better future. That despair the people here feel about their home country and how they think that in terms of finance and fine jobs good life is almost impossible in Romania is perfectly in line with my own country Serbia which is the reason why I found the film incredibly relatable.

What I also found relatable is the film’s handling of corruption in the form of business connections. That also felt really relatable to me as that is also something that these two countries share. How the people talked and how they helped each other was on point and incredibly realistic.

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Graduation Movie Review……………………………………………………………..

Romeo is such a great character and I felt sorry for Magda and she in particular was a tragic figure as her entire life is basically wasted and I found that sense of despair in the air palpable and oh so hard to watch. The same goes for Sandra and her problems were very well incorporated into the movie too. All of the characters here, even the minor ones, had purpose and felt real which is a testament to how strong both the dialogue and the character development here is. And of course the script and acting. Adrien Titieni is so memorable and very strong in a difficult role, but all of the others did a great job as well and everyone felt like a real person.

Now Graduation isn’t a perfect movie. It is as close as a newly released movie can get, but it still had its problems which prevented me from giving it the highest grade. Its major flaw is the complexity of the plot which is commendable, but comes with its shortcomings. I am of course talking about the somewhat implausible aspect of the plot in which everything clashed down on the characters and they were hit by one accident after another. I get that the director wanted to include as many real life issues as possible, but it still felt a bit unrealistic and a bit too much. And no matter how much I loved its crime elements (that sequence in which he chases a suspicious man was immensely intense), it still felt tacked on and almost unnecessary, especially because they didn’t resolve the crime which again felt realistic, but it also took away the needless amount of running time from the more important goings on in the story.

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Graduation Movie Review……………………………………………………………..

But Graduation is otherwise an immaculate movie that is almost perfectly constructed both in terms of storytelling and pacing. It is incredibly involving and always engaging to follow. Its editing is very deft and its cinematography was very memorable. Some of the scenes were wonderfully shot and even intense, the camera angles were excellent and the movie has no score which worked in its favor as it wasn’t needed for this type of story. And the direction from Cristian Mungiu is simply amazing and professional as is the entire movie on all levels. The tone is overly serious, but the film demanded it. And it is so unpleasant to watch at times, but in the best way possible as it emotionally devastates you, but not that you need to cry, but that you become overwhelmed by the tragic, awful lives the characters lead and that feeling is indescribably sad in its own right and the film evoked it magnificently.

Graduation is an almost immaculate movie. It is perfectly acted, so well shot and magnificently directed by always fascinating Cristian Mungiu, it is a movie that skillfully evokes that awful sense of despair and regret which is a testament to amazing character development, thematically rich script, many relatable and painful situations and such a hyper-realistic, just fantastic dialogue. It is the best 2016 film I’ve seen so far and it is the work that sharesboth immense emotional power and tough realism.

My Rating – 4.5

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The Adjustment Bureau (2011)

The Adjustment Bureau Movie Review……………………………………………………..

The Adjustment Bureau Movie Review

The Adjustment Bureau is a 2011 romantic science fiction film directed by George Nolfi and starring Matt Damon and Emily Blunt. It is a solid, interesting, but ultimately odd movie.

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Most people live life on the path we set for them, too afraid to explore any other.

But once in a while people like you come along who knock down all the obstacles we put in your way.

People who realize freewill is a gift that you’ll never know how to use until you fight for it.

I think that’s the chairman’s real plan.

That maybe one day, we won’t write the plan, you will

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The Adjustment Bureau Review……………………………………………………..

The entire storyline here is on the verge of being ludicrous. It is admittedly very intriguing, but still too vague and unexplained to become much more than that. I liked the theme of fate and choice, but it was unfortunately never explored as I wanted it to be. The plot is fun, but it is too much dressed in blockbuster clothing. Indie sensibilities would have really helped it out in the long run.

As for its genres, it’s again problematic. The mix itself is weird and very interesting as rarely do we see romance and science fiction together. It also has some thriller elements to it, but those aren’t present that often. However, whereas the mix is intriguing, the realization of it is troublesome as this experiment isn’t particularly successful to be honest. It thoroughly succeeds as a romance because the chemistry between its stars is palpable and their relationship is really well established, but it doesn’t succeed as a sci-fi work because its themes are unexplored and it is too comedic in its tone instead of being serious.

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The Adjustment Bureau Review……………………………………………………..

David is a somewhat boring protagonist, but Elise is very charming and likable. As for the others, they work solidly as a team, but aren’t memorable when taken apart. The acting is so-so. Emily Blunt is expectedly great and she really is both likable and capable in her role, but Matt Damon disappointed me as he gave a weak, problematic performance that is not one of his best, that’s for sure.

The Adjustment Bureau is well filmed and mostly well paced. The highlights were those romantic sequences as every scene between the two was so sweet and memorable. The emotion is definitely there and the ending, although too happy, is heartwarming and somewhat satisfying. There are some great lines to be had here, but still the dialogue should have been much better as the script demanded it.

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The Adjustment Bureau Review……………………………………………………..

For a first, Gorge Nolfi is okay, but his direction is overall not great. The same goes for Damon’s performance. The score is forgettable and let’s talk about that tone. Wow, rarely have I seen such an odd tone that is just off throughout most of its running time. I get that the mix of its genres is pretty weird in and of itself, but that is no excuse for this kind of mess in tone. It is just too odd, too comedic at times and suddenly shifting to darker and thriller aspects and so on and so on… I just felt that the entire movie seriously suffered from its indecisive tone whereas it could have been so much better had the filmmakers decided what to use. The Adjustment Bureau is in the end a solid film. It is far from great. It had the potential to be great, but that just never came to be. I respect it, but I wanted much more from it given its many strong elements.

The Adjustment Bureau is a very problematic movie. It is admittedly very original in its mix of science fiction and romance genres, the themes are interesting and the characters are solid. But whereas it thoroughly succeeds as a romance as the chemistry between its leads is palpable and their scenes are sweet, it doesn’t succeed as a sci-fi movie because its themes aren’t properly explored and the movie is so odd tonally as it never decides what it wants to be – serious and dangerous or comedic and light.

My Rating – 3.5

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The Death of Mr. Lazarescu (2005)

The Death of Mr. Lazarescu Movie Review

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The Death of Mr. Lazarescu Movie Review

The Death of Mr. Lazarescu is a 2005 Romanian drama film directed by Cristi Puiu and starring Ion Fiscuteanu. It is an absolutely fantastic, truly one of a kind work.

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You know what they say…

Mascara doesn’t help you if you don’t know how to speak.

Doesn’t help if you have no manners

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The film is about an old man who is carried by an ambulance from hospital to hospital all night as doctors keep refusing to treat him. This premise sounds dark and depressing and the eventual movie is just like that too – incredibly depressing and sometimes even difficult to watch. But it succeeds as a drama because the situation here is presented in the best and most suitable way possible – in a naturalistic style. Also, it is perfect because not only is it obviously realistic, but also because it’s just so heartbreaking and so relatable and important.

Mr. Lazarescu himself is such a realistic and well realized character and I really felt sorry for this man. You could easily see the pain in his eyes as the doctors evidently aren’t giving their best to diagnose his illness, let alone treat him. The  main reason why this character is relatable and why you feel sorry for him is definitely the performance from Ion Fiscuteanu who is absolutely magnificent in the main role. His delivery of lines is excellent, but the highlight is his eye contact and what he manages to convey just through his eyes and that was just heartbreaking to witness.

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The Death of Mr. Lazarescu Movie Review

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As for the other characters, I found his neighbors to also be unfortunately realistic. They wanted and did help him, but their hatred towards animals and his way of life was evident and some of the things they said behind his back are hurtful, but nonetheless real. Mioara the nurse is the only person here who genuinely wanted and tried to help Lazarescu which is why she is the most likable of the bunch. Yes, she did give him some hard time frequently, but she was still obviously a caring person and I liked that.

Let’s talk about the doctors and their depiction and what it all means and what the movie is trying to say. First off, I did feel that at times the doctors were a bit too vilified, especially the first one. But even though it may seem blown out of proportions, the depiction of the doctors and the overall health care system is hurtfully realistic, especially for its country Romania and some other similar countries. The way they gave the patient a cold shoulder was harsh, but all the more important as that really happens.

The first doctor, although too vilified as I mentioned above, is still important as his attitude toward Lazarescu’s drinking and the refusal to treat him because of that are all relevant. You also get some sexism as the man is evidently gravely ill and the nurses still proclaim him to be behaving like an old woman. Another statement here is the cramming of the hospitals and how they treat the most urgent situations right away and thus not living room for others to treat. But the overall apathy they exhibited toward the patient is what strikes the nerve here. It was, yes, very difficult to watch, but also incredibly important, real and such an urgent, real life problem that needs to be seen on the screen and the movie succeeds for presenting its problem in the most realistic, most brutal way possible.

The Death of Mr. Lazarescu isn’t a perfect film as it has its problems. One of them is the too negative portrayal of the first doctor and the other one is its ending. I just found the ending to be incredibly disappointing and subpar when compared to the rest of the picture. First of all, they didn’t need to show the preparation for the operation as it was unnecessary in my opinion. And secondly, the whole conclusion just felt abrupt and not like a closure that I wanted to have with this film. Also they could have lessened the number of hospitals they visited and the effect would have been a bit stronger. But other than that, the film is incredibly strong in all the other areas.

Romanian cinema is very strong and this is one of their best films and I entirely agree with that. This is not only the finest foreign or drama film I’ve seen recently, but also the best film overall that I’ve seen in weeks. It is just that special and that incredible. The direction from Cristi Puiu is especially strong and he just delivered in spades with this movie. The entire film is about two and a half hours long which does seem too long for such a small story, but the execution of it is so good, the editing is so deft and the film is just so involving to watch that its length did not bother me in the least. In fact, it is one of the most interesting and best edited dramas I’ve seen in a long time.

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Of course, its naturalistic style is just mesmerizing. I loved how observational it was with such a terrific attention to detail in the portrayal of its characters and their conversations. The dialogue in The Death of Mr. Lazarescu is top-notch – always realistic and engaging to follow. The emotion is evident as the film is tragic and heartbreaking and it will leave no one untouched. I disagree with the critics for classifying it as a dark comedy as to me its humor isn’t that evident and the film is most certainly a pure drama, at least it was for me. The tone may be too depressing for some, but I liked that it didn’t involve any light moments as this kind of story needs to be incredibly melodramatic and dark. It is so well filmed and so real in its dialogue and style that I just loved it as it really is a tragic, important, seemingly real story that needed to be told.

Tragic, difficult to watch and depressing, but also incredibly well directed, deftly edited, wonderfully acted and filmed in such a fantastic naturalistic style, The Death of Mr. Lazarescu is such a heartbreaking and relatable, important movie that is filled with such raw realism and urgency that it can easily be overwhelming to some. But to me it was a fantastic film that explores the inadequacy of the health care system and the hurtful apathy of its workers in the most brutal, yet honest and urgent way possible and gives us such an involving, important and mostly top-notch movie in the process.

My Rating – 4.5

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4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 days (2007)

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days Review

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days is a 2007 Romanian drama film directed by Cristian Mungiu and starring Anamaria Marinca. It is one of the country’s most acclaimed works and it truly is a fantastic film.

 It is set in 1987 and it follows two roommates who arrange an illegal abortion. This is a phenomenal plot. This is the kind of plot that is simplistic, but wonderfully so and still shows hidden layers while it unfolds. It is a slow burn as well, but far from being a boring film as it is nicely paced and slow, but always intriguing and even fascinating to follow. It has a weaker first act, but the second one is astonishing and the third is so intense and so emotionally satisfying and quite unforgettable. The whole movie is unforgettable.

It showcases the many problems of abortion and how it was back in the eighties when it was illegal in Romania. But it is timeless because it presents you with an unhappy pregnant woman who is afraid of the abortion and who has been postponing it for months. And it shows what a huge emotional toil that can have on a person, especially in those climactic last scenes and in the arguments with the doctor. It is such a relatable and emotional, but also dramatic and intense and even an unsettling and deeply depressing film. But above all it is incredibly realistic, poignant, relatable and grounded in approach as only European cinema can be.

The characters are phenomenally depicted. Otilia is the reason why this movie works in the first place. She is so realistic, so relatable and her troubles ring true. Gabita is also so wonderful as this innocent and sweet woman who unfortunately got into this big mess. The two are such great friends and they got so many heartwarming moments, especially the conclusion. As for Bebe, he is again realistic as this unlikable and harsh doctor and the family as well as the boyfriend of the protagonist are all well realized. The characters are so well developed and so grounded and relatable.

There are many scenes here that I absolutely adored. Some of the highlights are the silent ending which is superb, some incredibly intense moments near the conclusion and the argument between the doctor and the two girls. That scene is just so fantastic to behold. You get this big argument and conversation that lasts for well over ten minutes, but is so incredibly well done with not just real time, realistic behavior and speeches, but also superb acting. Yes, the acting is superb across the board, but Anamaria Marinca in particular did a spectacular job in a difficult role, giving a powerhouse performance that is one of the very best of the year. Such incredible work from a talented actress.

As I said, the dialogue is splendid. So truthful, grounded and honest, the qualities the whole film possesses. As for the highlights, another scene strikes me and that is definitely the dinner scene. It is such an authentic sequence that is again filmed in real time and lasts well over five minutes or so with a typical chat between the friends and family on a typical birthday, but what makes it so unique and so dramatic is the fact that we get to watch Otilia’s reactions and facial expressions. You see just from her face the agony she is going through and those moments are simply precious and such powerful filmmaking at display here.

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days is also technically polished. And if it weren’t for a slower and inferior beginning and some drawn out sequences along with the showing of the fetus which was highly unpleasant, this would have been a top-notch picture as it is that good. The editing is mostly good as is the pacing. It is slow, but it builds tension and it is rewarding in the end, especially emotionally. The acting is phenomenal with the entire cast doing a great job, but Cristian Mungiu also did a fantastic job as a director as it is such a deft and well looking film. It is well photographed with superb cinematography and some great camera angles. The approach and dialogue are both realistic and the film is incredibly memorable and relatable. It also has just the right amount of running time and its plot is wonderfully constructed. It is not only smart, but its heart is also in the right place. This is such a beautiful introduction to Romanian cinema for me and one of the best foreign movies I’ve seen up to this point.

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days has an inferior beginning and it can be slow to some, but it is decidedly slower paced with a great tension and build-up and it is so well directed and filmed. But it is above all incredibly acted by Anamaria Marinca, the characters are so relatable, the conflict is realistic as is the dialogue and the approach which are stupendous and the movie is simply unforgettable with a couple of mesmerizing and instantly recognizable sequences. It is one of the best foreign movies I’ve ever seen.

My Rating – 4.5

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      Interior & Exterior Stills from 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 days

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