Johnny Sinatra’s review published on Letterboxd:
A lot of people think the main theme of this movie is worrying about life after college to which I respond how so and they can’t really elaborate. To me this movie is in a sense about that but there’s a lot more to it then that. I think this movie presents two brilliant topics in incredible ways. That being the idea of a materialistic life forced upon by your parents and also empty relationships.
From the beginning we are told that Ben wants to be different. Which in my mind translates to he wants to be different from his parents and does not want to grow up and be the materialistic person his parents are today. His parents use him at moments as almost a trophy to show off to the other families like in the scuba diving scene even if he doesn’t want them too and in the beginning sequence we can see his parents constantly talking about all his accomplishments to other groups of parents. The camera gives lots of attention to the fish tank when he’s in his room with Mrs. Robinson to emphasize how trapped the fish are in their tank which is foreshadowing for when Ben scuba dives for everyone. When Ben is under water we are given an almost claustrophobic feeling telling us how he feels exactly. Almost as if the exterior of the pool is closing in on him. He feels he is trapped in this world of materialism he will inevitably end up in because of the pressure from his parents to be perfect just so they can show him off. He tries to come back up to the surface outside of the pool but his parents push him back in. No matter how hard he tries to escape this materialistic world his parents always pressure and push him back into it. This is why he feels the need to accept Mrs. Robinson’s sexual request soon after the scuba scene. He thinks doing so will be breaking his parents rules and he will finally be doing something independently. We’ve all been at that moment in life where we feel we are destined to be put parents even if we don’t want to, and the cinematography in the movie expresses Bens emotions so authentically and accurately yet in such a beautiful way. I talk about movies that put you in the protagonists shoes so well but I think the graduate is up there for one of the movies that did it to the fullest without losing any beauty in the overall look of the film.
Meaningless and empty relationships is yet another interesting theme presented. Some examples of this are the relationships between Ben and Mrs. Robinson, Mr and Mrs Robinson, and Ben and his Parents. The relationship between Ben and Mrs Robinson is obviously meaningless because it is strictly for the purpose of sexual interaction, Mr and Mrs Robinson have a meaningless relationship because they got together as a result of young love, and Bens relationship with his parents is empty because they mainly use him for their own reputation rather then treating him as there son. The only true relationship in the film is the one between Elaine and Ben. The both share relatability in their lives and genuinely enjoy talking and spending time with eachother. Their chemistry is obviously unique compared to that of everyone else’s in the movie. That is why the ending is so powerful. We realize through Elaine and Bens emotions on the bus together that they obviously are realizing what they have gotten themselves into. Young love that could just be another repeat of Mr and Mrs Robinson’s early love life. This is why Mrs Robinson wanted her daughter to stay away from Ben. We realize rather then the villain of the story, Mrs Robinson instead had the right idea. She knows that there’s a big chance Elaine will fall in love at a young age and may even make an awful life decision with her lover much like Mrs Robinson did herself. I’m not really good at explaining how good actors were in films but I’ll just say that every actor in this movie knew exactly how they were supposed to act for the movies themes to really kick in. Everyone gave convincing and engaging performances especially Dusty Hoffman who I will forever praise for his work in this movie. This movie is genius the way it puts you in Bens shoes, brilliant in its overall messages and although Raging Bull stands as my favorite movie of all time this is probably the most well done movie I’ve ever seen.