Anna is an 18-year-old orphan in 1962 Poland who has grown up in a convent and is now ready to take her vows and become a nun. But first she is required to visit her only surviving relative, an aunt named Wanda whom she has never met. Wanda wastes little time in informing Anna of a secret: Anna is Jewish and her real name is Ida [Ee-da] Lebenstein. Together they embark on a journey to try to determine how Ida’s mother (Wanda’s sister) and father died. If Ida has seen too little of the world, Wanda has seen too much. A judge, she has committed herself to enforcing the Communist Party line, but she also drinks hard and sleeps around.

There is an unusual story regarding how director Pawel Pawlikowski came to cast Agata Trzebuchowka as Ida, considering that Trzebuchowka had no acting experience, nor even any acting ambitions. A friend of Pawlikowski’s spotted Trzebuchowka sitting in a Warsaw café and thought she had the look that Pawlikowski was searching for. So she secretly took a photo of the young woman with her iPhone and sent it to the director, who later convinced Trzebuchowka to take the role. Good call.

Maybe I’ve seen too many movies, or maybe it’s because I was born in Hollywood, but it wasn’t hard to figure out early on what was going to happen to Ida. Still, there are enough surprises in the plot to make up for it.

In addition to its nomination in this category, Ida was also rewarded with a nomination for the black and white cinematography of Lukasz Zal and Ryszard Lenczewski.