June 20, 2014 at 1:00 am

Tom Long

Review: An innocent stunned by past, confused about future in 'Ida'

Anna (Agata Trzebuchowska), a novitiate nun in 1960s Poland, is about to take her vows when she discovers a dark family secret in 'Ida.' (Sundance Institute)

Some are haunted by the past, some by the present, others by the future. “Ida” is haunted by all three at once.

Talk about identity issues — Ida is not even the name she knows herself by. That would be Anna (the otherworldly beauty Agata Trzebuchowska), a young woman raised in a convent, about to take her vows and become a nun.

But before she can do that, her elders tell her she must journey to the Polish town where an aunt Anna she has never heard of lives.

So Anna sets off.

When she arrives in the town — writer-director Pawel Pawlikowski sets his story in the early ’60s and shoots in black-and-white — she meets Wanda (Agata Kulesza), her aunt, a hard-drinking, chain-smoking, free-loving judge who hands tough sentences down to anti-socialists.

Wanda breaks some news to Anna. First off, she’s Jewish. Second, her name is Ida, not Anna. Third, her parents were killed for being Jews during the war.

Nobody knows where their bodies are buried.

Welcome home.

In something like shock, Ida heads for the bus station and the convent. But Wanda intervenes and decides they’ll take a trip to the village where Ida’s parents lived and try to find their graves. What Ida doesn’t know is that Wanda has her own dark reasons for the investigation.

“Ida” is a short film, and not all that much goes on. Wanda drinks too much, Ida finds herself alternately appalled and intrigued by life outside the convent. Pawlikowski doesn’t so much look through Ida’s eyes as he shows her looking, slowly taking it all in and trying to understand what it means.

In the end, Ida has to confront where she’s come from, decide who she is and who she wants to be. Then again, don’t we all?

'Ida'

GRADE: B

Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, some sexuality and smoking

Running time: 80 minutes

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