Irena’s Vow Review - Engrossing, Riveting, A Must See

Irena's Vow, from Quiver Distribution, presents the story of Irena Gut Opdyke, a polish girl who through divine providence becomes a Nazi Major's assistant and befriends a dozen Jewish workers hiding them in his house for years.

The story begins with Irena, played by Sophie Nelisse, walking through the halls of the hospital where she is studying to be a nurse, when a colleague explains Poland has fell and the Nazi are taking over. It is 1939. She walks down the hallway toward the medicine, when an explosion blasts through the wall in the exact place she was standing not five seconds before, and by divine intervention she is spared.

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She attends church and midway through the service the Nazi's come in and round everyone up. She is picked by Major Rugmer, played by Dougray Scott, and is forced into labor. She faints on the job, and he intervenes, and she pleads for her job. We understand she has been working here for one year. So, we are one year into the occupation, it is 1940.

The Major promotes her to housekeeper. One day as she is shopping for fresh vegetables, the Gestapo Rokita, played by Maciej Nawrocki, walks through the town square, commanding everyone off the streets.

The vegetable lady, Helen, played by Sharon Azrieli, guides Irena into a building as they watch the Rokita stop a woman who is deathly afraid that he will harm her baby. He calms her, placates her, explains how respectful she is, and begins to cuddle the baby, cooing, holding the child, and in an instant, he smashes the baby to the ground and stomps its skull and then shoots the mother. The emotion in this scene is palpable.

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Irena returns to work in the kitchen and explains to Herr Schulz, played by Andrzej Seweryn, what she has seen, and he explains to survive in this world, you must not look to the left or to the right only look down and walk one foot in front of the other, and now that means serving Rokita, the Gestapo, dessert.

Soon after, she overhears him explain to the Major, that this zone will be liquated by July, and by now she has befriended the Jewish necessary workers who are pretending to be seamstresses and explains to them the plan.  

By divine providence again, she is promoted to head housekeeper and assistant at the Major's new villa. With her knowledge of medicine, she drugs him so he will sleep soundly, and moves them to villa and hides them in the basement. One night the major wakes and believes he is hearing rats and is demanding the entire house be fumigated. So, the hiding Jews look around the basement and find an actual hiding room built by the original owners, and they move into the room, which can only be accessed through a crawl space.

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Over the next two years, Irena uses her wit, humor, and courage to hide her friends until the end of the German occupation, concealing them during countless Nazi parties, a blackmail scheme, and even the birth of a child. Her story is one of the most inspiring of our time.

Irena's Vow is captivating, with unexpected plot twists, and told through a time, that we as viewers understand through history, that Irena was facing a sure death if she were caught, as were the Jews. And yet, as they lived on the edge, they moved freely through the house, left the curtains open, and acted as though they had nothing to lose if they were caught. The freedoms they had while the Major was working, blurred the lines, it seemed, at times to their actual life or death circumstances.

Irena's Vow is suspenseful, riveting and gripping as the harshness and horrors of history are replayed.

Irena's Vow opens in theaters April 15, 2024. It is a must see.

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Directed by: Louise Archambault.

Language: English, German with English subtitles.

Release Date: April 15, 2024.

Written by: Dan Gordon.

Produced by: Nicholas Tabarrok, p.g.a, Beata Pisula, Tim Ringuette, Berry Meyerowitz and Jeff Sackman.

Executive Produced by: Larry Greenberg and Leah Jaunzems.

Cast: Sophie Nélisse, Dougray Scott, Andrzej Seweryn, Maciek Nawrocki, Sharon Azrieli, Akeksander Milicevic, Eliza Rycembel, Agata Turkot, Filip Kosior, Krzysztof, Szczepaniak, Irena Melcer, Eryk Kulm, Zuzanna Pulawska, Tomasz Tyndyk.

Haute Tease