Graduates (2023) Movie review FROM 22nd Annual Tribeca Film FestivalOR movie written and directed by Hannah Peterson and playing Sundwall mining, John Cho, Alex R. Hibbert, Maria Dizzia, Kelly O’Sullivan, DANIEL Kim, Stephen Fuller Austin, Yasmeen Fletcher, Anthony S. Goolsby, Bekah Jung, Musa Aden, John Forker, Ewan manly, Adrian McLean, Oscar Rudecindo, Augustine Tang AND Stockton Ross.
Hannah Peterson’s subtle and poignant drama, Graduatesleans a little on a stunningly beautiful performance from Mina Sundwall as Genevieve, a young girl who has lost her boyfriend, Tyler (Daniel Kim) in a school shooting. Graduates makes the odd choice not to focus on that shoot, but rather on the film’s main characters’ attempts to move on with life after this incredibly shocking tragedy. Set in Utah, Peterson’s film is personal, gripping and unique as it reveals the many layers of its complex characters as they face choices that would otherwise never have been had the tragedy never happened.
Genevieve is the focus of the photo. She compares her SAT scores to what is the minimum score required to get into her dream university and unfortunately comes up short. She is serious about her ambitions which are weighed down by hard realities. She turns to her mother Maggie (the perfect Maria Dizzia) for comfort even though Genevieve fears that Maggie may be disappointed in her.
In contrast to the other characters in the film is Ben (Alex R. Hibbert) who has recently disappeared from town and almost shows up at school on the day of the shoot. When Genevieve and Ben are reunited, there is real comfort to be found in the bond between these two very fragile characters within the film. Another memorable character is that of Vicky (Kelly O’Sullivan), a counselor who finds her joy in helping other people as she decides her calling is to stay where it is and develop her career by worked with the students until film time. finished.
John Cho, however, turns in the most moving performance of the supporting cast as Tyler’s father John, a basketball coach who stays at the high school hoping to inspire his players to be their best under circumstances that aren’t always easy . or simplified. Cho’s acting stands out even in a film like this which is full of heartfelt performances.
Sundwall’s Genevieve can tear the audience’s hearts out as we feel all her pain and passion. Sundwall not only makes her character easy to sympathize with and relate to, but also very realistic. Sundwall is playing a role that has so much substance that the subtext the actress provides can be thrown off the screen.
Small problem with Graduates it can also be a strength in one way, but, alas, it becomes a weakness in another because of the particular subject the picture deals with. This film does not focus on the shooting and by making this choice, the audience is left to try to understand what exactly happened through the actions and reactions of the characters in the film. We see Tyler in flashbacks, which helps develop the kind of person he was, but viewers will feel the fear that must have been going on in these characters’ lives at the time of the incident. As a result, perhaps, it would have helped with the greater explanation of the events that took place that have led our characters on a solemn path where they are trying to rebuild hope.
This is No. to say what the film does is not good. It does what it sets out to do exceptionally well. The character of John Cho’s father makes an interesting case for peace and tranquility, and embedded in the scenes where he appears are moments of peaceful events and expressions of love from those around him. We see flowers and teddy bears and representations of hope that are heartbreaking in their excesses. Love and peace try to overcome the evil that has happened and Peterson certainly delivers that message and then some. Maria Dizzia is an added bonus and is complex in her caring direction as a mother whose love for her daughter trumps everything else.
Sundwall’s character struggles a lot in the film to find a happy medium. At one point, she is about four assignments behind in a class. Genevieve is so memorable that Sundwall stands out as an actress who seems to have a very bright future ahead of her. Let’s not forget Alex R. Hibbert who has a role that is also very exciting. Hibbert’s Ben is lost and looking for some kind of path in his life. Peterson does not always provide easy answers for this very interesting and compelling character. This film also brings up the voicemails that were left on Tyler’s phone in very poignant ways that help shed light on the past and bring him back to the present.
Many of the characters Graduates change significantly during the course of the picture. Sundwall masterfully conveys her character’s transformation. The movie ends with John making a big change in his life. This change may be seen as a significant change, but the audience will surely wonder what would have happened under different circumstances. This film is deeply moving and the fact that you can be left wanting more at the end is, perhaps, a testament to the quality of the film as a whole.
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