Directed by Steven Oritt and written by David Himmelstein (screenwriter of many acclaimed historical dramas, including Soul of the Game), the film excels at putting the audience in the shoes of its teenage heroine (Zuzanna Surowy), who lost and alone is hostile terrain, making things right as she goes. The story begins with Sara and her older brother breaking up after he tells her that she has a better chance of surviving the war because he is more clearly Jewish than she is. His insight is only partially confirmed: from the moment Sara gets work as a nanny on a farm in Ukraine (which is also under German control), hardly a scene goes by without someone doubting her story or letting her somehow look at it believe that she is suspected of lying.

Sara tells her hosts – the farmer Pavlo (Eryk Lubos) and his wife Nadya (Michalina Olszanska) – that she is fleeing a bad domestic situation: her mother died, her father remarried a woman who hates her, and now there is a new baby . Pavlo accepts this story, but Nadya finds her lazy. For much of the rest of the film, she stares at the heroine with daggers no matter what. Sometimes she suspects Sara of being Jewish. Sometimes she seems to think that the new girl is a hustler who will end up seducing Pavlo. Pavlo is depressed and upset. The Nazis rob him, demanding a certain amount of cattle and grain to feed their occupying forces. He’s also a widower, having lost his first wife and child together (possibly in the war, although we don’t get the details), and there are times when he looks at his new wife as if realizing he has a made terrible mistakes. This is not a great situation, to say the least, even for a makeshift wartime arrangement.

Based on the story of the real Sara, the film invents situations where Sara could be found out unless she manifests instincts or generates knowledge that allows her to “pass” (such as the ability to make the Sign of the Cross , some she learned from her Christian friends). The film so deftly masters simple techniques of subjective filmmaking that when Sara enters a small-town church, it’s like following a mouse into a barn full of cats. At times, the film turns the thumbscrews on the audience by letting us know that an awkward moment is coming well before it happens, like when Sara tells a woman during a trip to the village that she’s from a certain town, and that Wife says she can’t wait to see her again next week so she can connect with someone who has known her since childhood.

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