Ida unfolds partly as chamber play and partly as road movie, following the two women on a search for their dead beloveds' anonymous graves.
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Pawel Pawlikowski shows great empathy toward the idea of illusions as a way of attaining emotional stability in even the most brutal terrain.
With her brassy, determined aunt, Ida sets off to find answers and discovers life beyond the convent walls in this leisurely but satisfying journey.
Both actresses are extraordinary, but Kulesza — bitter, sarcastic and tragic — carries the movie’s soul.
If it does suffer slightly from an overall lack of urgency that will mean those looking for a more directly emotive experience may find it hard to engage with, the more patient viewer has rewards in store that are rich and rare indeed.
Just as austere and demanding as you'd expect a black-and-white film about a Polish nun to be. Don't let that scare you, though.
Every moment of Ida feels intensely personal. It is a small gem, tender and bleak, funny and sad, superbly photographed in luminous monochrome: a sort of neo-new wave movie with something of the classic Polish film school and something of Truffaut, but also deadpan flecks of Béla Tarr and Aki Kaurismäki.
It’s one thing to set up a striking black-and-white composition and quite another to draw people into it, and dialing things back as much as this film does risks losing the vast majority of viewers along the way, offering an intellectual exercise in lieu of an emotional experience to all but the most rarefied cineastes.
Ida’s piercing intimacy makes the deepest impression, but its vision is deceptively wide-reaching despite a scale that’s deliberately pared-down and small.
Frame by frame, Ida looks resplendently bleak, its stunning monochromes combining with the inevitable gloomy Polish weather and communist-era deprivations to create a harsh, unforgiving environment.