Just because the Oscars are over doesn’t mean we have to forget about these fine films and start looking ahead to next year. We still have at least seven months before the 2016 movies start really rolling in. No, now is the time we reflect and look back on the movies we have seen with new perspective or watch the ones we haven’t and try to figure out just what the hell the Academy saw in them.

Still from Ida: Fandor.com
Still from Ida: Fandor.com

Take Ida, which won the Academy Award for Foreign Language Film. It’s a film many people have probably not taken the time to watch. Often times the foreign films are harder to find in theaters or in any capacity for that matter.  Luckily, I was given an opportunity to see this just-released film online through a subscription service, so like any other film connoisseur, I immediately fired it up.

The film is simple yet stunning and poetic in its cinematography. We are introduced to Ida a week before she is set to take her vows to become a nun. Ida is sent off, into a world she has never truly been, to meet with her last remaining relative, her Aunt Wanda Gruz. They are polar opposites of each other. Wanda smokes constantly, drinks excessively and sleeps around, while Ida is young and irreproachable. Her eyes, deep pools of naiveté and innocence, say it all. Wanda is abrupt in her discussion of her sister, Roza Lebenstein, as she matter-of-factly tells Ida that she is a Jew, her parents were murdered when the Germans invaded Poland during World War II.  When Wanda agrees to accompany Ida on a quest to find her parents graves, the duo embarks on a journey that will ultimately define both of their lives.

Director Pawel Pawlikowski is a newcomer to the Academy Awards, but he is no stranger to making exceptional films with BAFTA and European Awards for such films as My Summer of Love and Last Resort. Pawlikowski does incredible work framing each shot. The stillness of the camera keeps the viewer focused on the emotions onscreen. With fewer cuts than typical film viewers are accustomed to, we are forced to hold onto the moment sometimes uncomfortably long. It is a film not for the faint of heart.

The titular character, portrayed by Agata Trzebuchowska, displays a fantastic sense of composure as her journey takes her to parts unknown and pushes her to discover some meaning of life before she takes her vows. Trzebuchowska is a newcomer to the screen and could not have been a better choice. The sense of awe comes through in her performance yet she has the air of a seasoned vet. Her emotions are real, true, but presented with the confidence of someone who has been there before.

Ida was deemed the best at this year Academy Awards, but we can’t always trust what people tell us. Experience this shockingly beautiful film for yourself, if only to enjoy the fantastic art of film making.

Review by Steve Pipps.  A Chicago-based freelance writer, he enjoys writing for both the screen and TV. Follow him on Twitter @stevepipps or check out his website stevenpipps.com. Ida is available for digital streaming via Fandor, a community of film lovers and makers and the home of thousands of handpicked, award winning films from around the world, of all lengths and genres. For more information, please visit www.Fandor.com.