In occupied Poland, a former nurse (Sophie Nélisse) risks her own life to shelter a dozen Jewish men and women from the Nazi war machine.
Warsaw, 1939: when the Nazis invade Poland, nurse Irena Gut (Sophie Nélisse) is displaced and forced to work in support of the German war effort, eventually assigned to run the home of a Nazi commandant (Dougray Scott). Instead of following the path of least resistance and gambling on her status and ethnicity to keep her safe, Gut risks everything to save a dozen Jewish refugees from persecution and murder, sheltering them under her boss’s nose. With fascism proudly elbowing its way back onto the national stage, it sadly feels urgent and necessary to give this story a dramatic spotlight.
Adapted by Dan Gordon (The Assignment, TIFF ’97; The Hurricane, TIFF ’99) from his stage play, and directed by Quebecois filmmaker Louise Archambault — working in a very different mode from her previous dramas Familia (TIFF ’05), Gabrielle (TIFF ’13), and And the Birds Rained Down (TIFF ’19) — Irena’s Vow is, at its heart, a story of simple moral clarity.
It’s all anchored by a powerful performance from the empathetic Nélisse, who’s grown from a child actor in Monsieur Lazhar (TIFF ’11) and Endorphine to a confident young star in Mean Dreams (TIFF ’16) and the hit television series Yellowjackets. Here she channels the alternating shock, disbelief, and horror of an innocent who is forced, over and over again, to negotiate an impossible situation — always racing to ensure not just her friends’ survival, but her own.
Official Selection, 2023 Toronto International Film Festival
Content advisory: violence, coarse language, sexual content