Based on the true story of Polish nurse Irena Gut Opdyke, director Louise Archambault brings TIFF 2023 audiences IRENA’S VOW, a harrowing tale of a young woman’s relentless bravery during WW2.
Feeling an overwhelming need to protect a group of Jewish workers during the Nazi regime, Irena hatches a plan to hide them in plain sight. Under the watchful eye of a vile general and the comings and goings of those who would have them all killed on a whim, one woman saves the lives of strangers, making way for change. Opdyke’s meticulously choreographed schedule of maneuvering workers and her wards is breathtaking. Her sacrifices will bowl you over. Sophie Nélisse breathes life into Irena. She is equal parts heroic and vulnerable. I didn’t even recognize her from her brilliant work on Yellowjackets. She transforms into Irena with an elegance that is perfection.
The costumes and sets place you back in time, making you feel claustrophobic within the walls of a mansion. Bravo to the production design team. The storytelling is authentic, brutal, heartrending, and inspiring. IRENA’S VOW displays how quickly evil permeates a culture, how goodness can overcome those forces, and the importance of standing up for what’s right in the world. Timely and crucial in the face of ignorance and hate, IRENA’S VOW is a triumph in this year’s lineup.