“The Graduates,” thankfully avoids showing a school shooting, but what’s left leaves you wanting more.


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Film Summary

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It has been a year since a school shooting rocked Lewis High School, and six people died. Now, the graduating class that lost multiple friends are ending their high school experience, and some are dealing with survivor’s guilt.

One is Genevieve, whose boyfriend, Tyler, was one of the people killed and was the son of John, the school’s basketball coach. Genevieve is struggling due to having no one to talk to about Tyler, and it is making closing this chapter of her life difficult. Reenter Ben, Tyler’s best friend, who reconnects with everyone since leaving Lewis High not too long after the shooting.

But, whether Genevieve can find closure and comfort with Ben or will continue to struggle with her trauma requires seeing the movie to get an answer.

Character Descriptions

Please Note: This character guide is not an exhaustive list of every cast member, and character descriptions may contain what can be considered spoilers.

Genevieve

Genevieve is a notable photographer at her school who has aspirations to go to NYU and pursue it as a career.

John

John is Tyler’s dad, who solely became the basketball coach to spend more time with his kid, though it appears he isn’t the best at his job.

Ben

Ben was one of Lewis High School’s top basketball players, but after the shooting, of which he skipped school the day of, his family moved him away. He keeps a certain feeling of guilt for not being there and maybe doing something – even if just saving his best friend.

  • The Actor Is Also Known For: His role in “The Chi” and his role in “Moonlight

Tyler

Tyler was a basketball player, a son, a boyfriend, a jokester, and boy did he love himself some chicken nuggets.

Review

Our Rating: Mixed (Divisive)

Highlights

It Doesn’t Show Or Recap The Shooting

Unlike the majority of school shooting movies, we don’t see the shooter, hear bullets flying, or even the sounds of gunshots. “The Graduates” is purely about the aftermath on survivors’ psyches. Whether it is feeling they don’t deserve to be here, to be happy, or parents trying to help their children process trauma. All of which is done without dramatic monologues or anything beyond the truth of the experience, and, for many, it being a ball and chain, but not something to keep time from coercing them to move forward.

Genevieve

What makes Genevieve as a character notable, and thankfully the lead, is that she takes it upon herself to keep it together and be there for others, even when she needs a shoulder to cry on herself. One notable example is her relationship with Ben, which is reborn from a need to have an outlet, yet Ben doesn’t want or maybe isn’t able to be that for her. He does share a level of remorse, but, as the image used for the movie shows, he can’t be her shoulder to cry on. Ben can’t be the one she is vulnerable with, can be less than perfect around, and be given grace, understanding, or even rediscover what it means to be close to someone you love.

In many ways, it is heartbreaking since she is shown to be a normal teen who rides her bike when she can’t drive her mom’s car, goes to parties, has issues with boys, and feels like college is a deciding factor in her future. So to see her deal with this extra weight on top of all of that? It makes you feel for her.

On The Fence

In The Pursuit Of Exploring The Aftermath For Many, It Dilutes Its Impact

“The Graduates” is a stronger film in reflection than it is while watching it. While watching it, it being understated can lead to what feels like a dull movie. Yes, watching Ben leave voicemails to feel like he is having a conversation with Tyler is touching, as is Genevieve’s desire to connect with Ben to have someone to talk to about Tyler, the guilt, and there be reciprocation. Then, of course, there is Tyler’s dad continuing to coach the basketball team in his son’s honor.

However, while it is sad, it doesn’t feel impactful in the moment. Especially as a relationship between Ben and Genevieve gets established, despite their shared connection to Tyler. Then throw in the film bringing some modicum level of development to Genevieve’s mom, and it’s like, the more characters we meet, the more time given to flesh them out, the more diluted and unfocused the film becomes. Potentially leading to you losing the emotional connection you could have.

Add in, alongside avoiding flashbacks of the shooting, Tyler existing for viewers mostly in pictures or through hearing his voicemail? You get this awkward film that wants to be about those who survived a school shooting after the news cameras left. Yet, by not just focusing on Genevieve and expanding it to how her mom felt, how her boyfriend’s dad felt, then Ben, and then going into those people’s lives outside of their connection to Genevieve? It makes the film feel bloated and geared towards being an ensemble despite there only being one strong character.

General Information

Director(s) Hannah Peterson
Screenplay By Hannah Peterson
Based On N/A
Date Released (Film Festival – Tribeca Film Festival) June 10, 2023
Genre(s) Drama, Young Adult
Film Length 1 Hour 27 Minutes
Content Rating Not Rated
Noted Characters and Cast
Genevieve Mina Sundwall
John John Cho
Ben Alex R. Hibbert
Tyler Daniel Kim

Things To Note

Why Is “The Graduates” Rated Not Rated

  • Dialog: Some cursing
  • Violence: N/A
  • Sexual Content: N/A
  • Miscellaneous: Drinking and smoking

Movie Recommendations

If you like this movie, we recommend:

  1. The Fallout

You can also check out our movies page for more recommendations and find our latest movie reviews.

FAQs

Why Is the Film Called “The Graduates?”

It’s about the graduating class who, a year prior, experienced a devastating school shooting that, for many, has altered their lives in immeasurable ways.

How Was The Twist(s) and Ending?

There is no twist and the ending provides closure for most characters

Is There A Mid-Credit or Post Credits Scene?

No

Genevieve (Mina Sundwall)
The Graduates (2023) – Movie Review and Summary (with Spoilers)
Overall
“The Graduates” is one of those films that should have had a singular focus, on just one character, with multiple supporting actors, but in it being a pseudo-ensemble, it weakens its impact and what could have made it great.
Highlights
Genevieve
It Doesn't Show Or Recap The Shooting
Disputable
In The Pursuit Of Exploring The Aftermath For Many, It Dilutes Its Impact
79

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