WHAT I LIKED: 'Ida,' is set in post-WW2 Poland and portrays the scars left by those horrors whilst exploring devotion to faith and family in a brilliant story about a young nun who suddenly finds out about her Jewish family when visiting her reckless aunt - but none of that is what makes this the modern masterpiece that it is. Yes, that all lies in the hands of director Paweł Pawlikowski as he delivers everything here so concisely telling you nothing you don't need to know whilst relying on pure visual cinema to say what he wants to say and the result is one of the most meditative and atmospheric films I've seen in recent years.
We begin establishing the titular nun character, and in a few long shots and with a tiny amount of dialogue we already feel for the nature of her restrictive life. She knows no different of course, but then she goes to meet her aunt for the first time and their amusing relationship begins to develop - again without the use of dialogue to tell us how the characters feel, but with subtle moments and gestures from two great actors that give us everything we need. The film continues as the pair go on a journey to learn about the death of Ida's parents in the war, and as things continue Paweł Pawlikowski not only creates a thoroughly melancholic view of the surrounding post-war Poland with his beautiful grey visuals; he also provokes us to meditate on the restrictions of Ida's faith and her obvious confliction between Jewish heritage and strict Catholic upbringing with numerous difficult situations.
The filmmaking in a way puts in mind the work of Steve McQueen but it's far more concise, and in the end what you've got here is basically a fascinating character study with a bit more on its mind where the concise, meditative execution makes for something truly magnificent.
WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE: Tying up a film like this is always going to be hard as there's no real thematic arc, but the way the central character arc concludes is hardly satisfying in the end.
VERDICT: A film with a brilliant story that provokes you to meditates on a few interesting character themes, Paweł Pawlikowski's 'Ida,' takes some great foundations and delivers them in a truly magnificent way. This really is a modern masterpiece.