Graduation (15)

Four stars

Dir: Cristian Mungiu

With: Adrian Titieni, Maria-Victoria Dragus

Runtime: 128 minutes

CRISTIAN Mungiu, director of the harrowing 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, is back with another riveting drama that won’t have the Romanian tourist board rushing to crack open the champagne. Graduation, which won him best director at Cannes last year, is the story of only child Eliza (Maria-Victoria Dragus), whose devoted father (Adrien Titieni) wants her to do well in her exams and head abroad. But how to do so when an attack just before finals sends her off course? Brilliantly calibrated to wring maximum tension from the circumstances, Mungiu’s tale is as revealing about parents and the pressure they put on children as it is about the state of the nation in which it is set.

The Age of Shadows (15)

Three stars

Dir: Kim Jee-woon

With: Yoo Gong, Kang-ho Song

Runtime: 141 minutes

THE age of shadows of the title is Korea in the 1920s, a country occupied by the Japanese. Determined to stamp out resistance to their rule, the authorities call on Japanese-Korean police chief Lee Jung-Chool (Song Kang-ho) to lure the rebel leaders in by pretending to be on their side. Kim Jee-woon’s political piece is played like an American gangster drama, with all the cliches that suggests – guns, beautiful women, a stylish soundtrack to the violence – and the interrogation scenes are hard to stomach. But it rattles along like a runaway train, detonating surprises right to the end.