It's tragic that some kids don't get enough love. It's even more tragic that some don't get any at all, but Romanian master Cristian Mungiu's Graduation takes on a father whose love turns toxic when put to the test.
The shift from benevolent protector to poisonous antagonist occurs after an unknown assailant attacks Eliza (Maria Dragus from Michael Haneke's anti-fascist fable The White Ribbon). Granted, Romeo (Adrian Titieni, who recalls Belgian everydad Olivier Gourmet) is less of a model citizen than he appears. He's a control freak and an adulterer, but Eliza is one scholarship away from attending Cambridge, and she has to ace her exams, so the respected physician starts calling in favors and encouraging her to play along.
It goes against everything for which he and his perma-fatigued librarian wife, Magda (Lia Bugnar), raised their only child: to reject the corruption that has come to characterize Romania, a country Mungiu shoots as a post-communist wasteland of brutalist buildings and parched greenery. Just as Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne directed Gourmet as the ultimate bad-good dad in The Promise, Mungiu depicts Romeo from the back such that his body attempts to speak for him in a way his person can't, reinforcing the constraints of his environment (fittingly, the Dardennes served as coproducers of this film).
Graduation isn't as harrowing as Mungiu's 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days or Beyond the Hills, but it's just as unsettling, albeit in a more restrained register.