Ida balances identity and religion in a way I have never seen before on screen. Set in 1960s Poland, the film centers on Anna (Agata Trzebuchowska), a young nun looking into a secret about her family’s past from the Nazi occupation. She discovers that she’s Jewish and her parents were murdered, which threatens her notion of devoting her life to Christianity. She is told to visit with her remaining family, particularly her aunt Wanda (Agata Kulesza), to figure out herself and her future. This is a poignant film without excess or overstatement; it’s a subtle, beautifully realized effort from director Pawel Pawlikowski. The performances provide the audience with insight into just how this odd couple would function: one condemns religion while the other has sworn her life to one that she doesn’t identify with. The film’s black-and-white cinematography feels iconic and fitting for the story at hand; the use of darkness and long takes dig deep into the existential crises at the heart of these characters. Running just 80 minutes, Ida is a short, modest feature, but it’s one of 2014’s best thus far. 

Grade: ★★★½ (out of 5)

Written by Eric Forthun