I intended to go see Fed Up, a documentary on processed foods and the American diet, as part of my personal challenge to cut out added sugar for 10 days. (In case you were wondering, still going strong.)
The times didn’t line up with my post-dinner plans, so I bought a ticket to see Ida on a whim. A stark, black and white movie, Ida is a coming of age story based in Poland, in 1962. Following an orphaned young woman raised in a convent and waiting to take her vows, she’s required by the mother superior to meet her one living relative, her aunt Wanda, who is a hardline communist, hedonist, and, to Ida’s surprise, Jewish.
Over the course of a few days, Ida and her aunt travel through Poland to find her parent’s grave. Throughout the trip, Ida learns more about her family history, her personal connection to the Nazi occupation of Poland, and her aunt’s trauma-induced alcoholism. For a child that’s never left the safe walls of her convent, the input is both simultaneously shocking and taken in stride with the maturity of a wise elder.
It was an odd movie with an existential storyline that doesn’t hit you until days later, especially as you ruminate on Ida’s final choice, her aunt’s depression, and the persistent betrayal of old friends complying with the Nazis. As the credits begin to scroll on screen, you feel undone by the subtly anticlimactic ending. Life, both Ida and her aunt teach us, can be fragile, easily undone, and readily thrown away for the comfort of familiarity.