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So as you know, I stopped writing lengthy reviews on this site this year, keeping the blog as more of a film diary of sorts.  Lo and behold,...

Monday, January 12, 2015

Movie Review - Ida

Ida (2014)
Starring Agata Kulesza, Agata Trzebuchowska, and Dawid Ogrodnik
Directed by Pawel Pawlikowski
***This film is currently streaming on Netflix***

Perhaps it's just my Polish heritage and Catholic religion driving my opinion on this one, but I found the Polish-language Ida to be a sometimes riveting look at the aftereffects of the Holocaust on someone who never even really lived through it.  Shot in beautiful black-and-white with a simplistic style full of long shots and some interesting camera placement (kudos to director and co-writer Pawel Pawlikowski), Ida tells the tale of a young Catholic novitiate nun (read: "nun in training") named Anna (Agata Trzebuchowska) who has spent her entire life (as much as she can remember) being raised by nuns.  Knowing nothing else, she expects nothing more for herself than to become a nun.  However, one afternoon she is told by her Mother Superior to explore her heritage by visiting her one surviving relative -- an aunt named Wanda (Agata Kulesza) several towns over from the convent.  Upon her arrival, Anna discovers that her aunt is quite a harlot -- boozing it up, sleeping with a lot of men, dressing scantily at times.  However, perhaps there is a reason for Wanda's lack of morality.  As Anna soon uncovers, her family has a dark, tragic past that not only affected Wanda, but also affected Anna's life in ways she had no idea.

One of the more interesting aspects of Ida is that its two female characters are given a bit of depth and background, making them fully realized beings.  At first, both seem like polar opposite stereotypes -- prudish nun and wild-child aunt -- but as the film progresses, we see that neither are exactly as their initial impressions would have us believe.  The older aunt Wanda, in particular, is a character who is still lingering with me several days after watching the film.  Unfortunately, I'd prefer not to reveal this character's secrets, but suffice it to say once her reasons for her current carefree ways are revealed, I found myself captivated by the struggles she went through in her younger days.  Agata Kulesza is fantastic here -- slowly revealing her character's pain and anguish, and ending the film with such a jaw-dropping moment that while surprising also felt understandable thanks to the actress's fine work on display.  A lovely, rich portrait of a survivor of a difficult era.

With its quick running time (under ninety minutes), Ida may be worth a shot for you if you don't often delve into foreign films.  Yes, its pace is a bit slow, it's in black and white, and it's more interested in giving us quiet moments rather than talkative ones, but the story here is easy to understand and the two main characters give the audience someone to latch onto as we discover their family history with them.

The RyMickey Rating:  B+

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