Sunday, May 24, 2015

Netflix Instant Queue Movie Review: "Ida" (2014)

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Director: Pawel Pawlikowski
Year: 2014
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 1 hour, 28 minutes

Anna (Agata Trzebuchowska) was raised as an orphan in a convent and is now a Novitiate nun waiting to take her vows to become a full-fledged nun. Before she can do so, she must meet her only living relative, her Aunt Wanda (Agata Kulesza). Her aunt is a promiscuous, smoking, heavy drinking judge who refused to adopt Anna as a child. When Anna meets Wanda, she is told that her real name is actually Ida and that she is also Jewish. Wanda tells Anna/Ida that her parents were killed during World War II, which is why she was raised in a convent as a Catholic. Ida wants to visit her parents' grave, but they don't know where they are buried, so Wanda and Ida go on a quest to find out what happened.

"Ida" is a critically acclaimed foreign film out of Poland and it was nominated for and eventually went on to win Best Foreign Language Film at this year's Academy Awards. We were excited to watch it because of this acclaim and word of mouth, but honestly, we didn't enjoy it all that much. We will say this film has some beautiful shots of gorgeous scenery and in some ways, is extremely visually striking being that it was shot in black & white in a 4:3 aspect ratio to mimic films of that era. The decision to make this movie black and white serves to couple its bleak themes and plot points, but, as we have mentioned in the past, pretty scenery and gorgeous camera shots do not a good film make. Beyond this, there isn't much else positive to say. The narrative is weak and the characters are under-developed, though well acted enough. For such a short film, we would have expected the characters to at least have a little more depth since there isn't much time to get to know them, but no such depth ever came. The dialogue is nothing special and isn't even that impactful for a movie about such a heavy topic. Though the relationship between Ida and her aunt should have been a powerful one as she learns the truth about her family and what really happened to them, the time it takes to get to any eventful conclusion or plot point we cared about couldn't have come soon enough, and even then, it's still underwhelming at best.

Arthouse directors are churning out these muted, understated films that are essentially character sketches so often it is now becoming cliché, but critics just eat movies like this up for breakfast, lunch, dinner and a snack. It's like there is a book out their somewhere called "Making Pretentious Films that Critics Will Love For Dummies" and Pawel Pawlikowski and company followed is step by step. Pawlikowski never manages to make us care about the characters or what they are going through, but we know we should since we have seen enough World War II movies to know better. We don't know if simply setting this film in post-WWII Poland is supposed to make us feel something or anything by default due to its historical significance, but it certainly doesn't. If someone is going to make a character sketch and turn it into a film, it needs to move the audience emotionally in some direction, whether it's to anger, laughter, sorrow, or empathy, and this moved us to nothing else but the next film on our Netflix instant queue. It's nothing new and it's not even interesting, just long patches of slow moving silence.

My Rating: 5/10
BigJ's Rating: 4.5/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.4/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 96%
Do we recommend this movie: No.

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