We closely follow Romeo (Adrian Titieni, one of Mr. Lazarescu‘s many doctors), sort of a sad Romanian Nick Frost, during the week of his daughter’s final exams. At first he’s a regular guy whose family has a string of bad luck, then things open up and we see that he’s cheating on his wife, that all the professional and government services are greased by favors and bribes, and that, in trying to help his daughter, he ends up dragging her into the small-town societal corruption that he was trying to save her from. We don’t know for sure if she’ll end up going off to Cambridge, or stay in town with her boyfriend and fall into the same traps as her parents, but I suspect the latter. At least the problems on display here aren’t as life-crushingly bad as in Leviathan.
Daughter Magda is Maria-Victoria Dragus (creepy bird-murdering kid of The White Ribbon). Mungiu tied with Assayas for best director at last year’s Cannes. I finally got to see it on opening day of this year’s Cannes (and also during graduation week).
V. Morton, who also has a nice bit on the film’s “egalitarian framing”:
Even as the film’s central narrative event happens (the assault on Romeo’s daughter on the eve of her baccalaureate exams), we see Romeo as an adulterer (later, we learn, with his wife’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” semi-connivance). We very promptly learn after the assault, even before the narrative implications have really been set up, that he and “Vlad Ivanov” had bribed their way out of the military draft and thus “owe” someone re a liver transplant. Romeo is a doctor. Graduation is not the story of a good man corrupted but a corrupt man trying to do “good” (when it serves him and his) because society runs on corruption.