Eliza is about to sit for her final-year school exams. If she gets top marks she will get a grant to study in London. It’s her parents’ dream not hers.
Fate steps in and Eliza is attacked the day before the exams begin. Her writing wrist is broken, and her attacker never found.
Her doting parents, both keen for her to leave Romania which they find sub-standard and strangled by corruption, are poles apart in their approach to their daughter’s future.
The father, a surgeon, is prepared to stoop to corruption in order that she get her grant. The mother a depressed librarian, wants her daughter to make her own choices.
Mungiu efficiently slips some soap-opera-like secondary relationships into the drama: the undesirable boyfriend, the mistress, her small son and the granny, who are like satellites rotating around Roman the father, Eliza the daughter and Magda, the mother.
The characters remain at a dignified distance, as does the idea of low-level wheeling and dealing.
The film runs smoothly describing an aspect of a Romanian society haunted by the corruption and lies of the past, and the attempt of those who struggled to achieve their goals in that past, to free their children from it.
In 2012 a joint best actress award at Cannes went to the two heroines in Mungiu’s long, beautiful and moving film, Beyond the Hills.
Bacalaureat doesn’t move mountains but it could reap the scenario Palm at the very least.
To read more articles on Cannes 2016, click here.