A stark emotional honesty permeates Ida, the new release from Pawel Pawlikowski (The Woman in the Fifth), which is finally opening in our market. The film starts off at some point in the 1960s with Anna (Agata Trzebuchowska), a young woman in a Polish convent preparing to take her final vows to become a nun, who is given the chance to meet a long-lost family member before officially joining the order. Reluctantly, she packs a few belongings and journeys to the address of her aunt, a woman named Wanda (Agata Kulesza) who sees her as an inconvenience and presents her with a startling truth that Anna’s real name is Ida, and she’s the surviving child of a Jewish family that was hiding from the Nazis in World War II.
Anna/Ida’s mother was Wanda’s sister, and the loss has haunted Wanda for 20 years. The film marvelously presents two fascinating female characters and a pair of unnerving performances. Pawlikowski’s gem is a black and white dream, European reserve with seething heat just below the surface, but it is also one of the more striking Holocaust films to emerge over the course of the last few years, because it focuses on the aftermath and the very real human consequences, far removed from the political ideologies and the overwhelming horrors of sheer magnitude of it all. Ida is a family’s story, a tale of finding and becoming something more than a survivor. Now (PG-13) Grade: A