After a number of impressively affecting English-language films (including Last Resort and My Summer Of Love), Pawel Pawlikowski‘s latest feature—Ida—is a return to the Polish filmmaker’s homeland and a sterling work of altogether stunning mise-en-scène and subtle power. Shot in black-and-white with a 1.37:1 aspect ratio, Ryszard Lenczewski and Lukasz Zal‘s cinematography is exquisite, drawing on precisely framed compositions in order for Pawlikowski to visually evoke the currents running right beneath the surface of his story—a tale of self-discovery and family history for a young woman (the titular character) on the verge of taking her vows to become a nun. Ida, played by newcomer Agata Trzebuchowska with a quiet but striking presence (she’s often shot to accentuate her eyes as inky black orbs), is helped by a relative she’s never known to uncover the shady truth regarding the death of her parents. Pawlikowski renders their journey personal, on the intimate level of the characters and their lives, and sociopolitical, as post-war Poland remains haunted by the Holocaust—both concerned with the secrets of the past and how those hidden truths have lasting consequences that linger in the present.

Ida is now playing in Toronto at the TIFF Bell Lightbox.