ChaiFlicks Pick of The Week: ‘My Polish Honeymoon’ review

Menemsha+Films

Menemsha Films

Dan Buffa, Special to the Jewish Light

How deeply do you understand your family roots? Do those roots define who you are today, or is it just the origin of your story? Are they something you wish to understand?

The answer changes for everybody. For Anna (Judith Chemla), a neurotic control freak with her heart in the right place, a trip to Poland with her husband, Adam (Arthur Igual)-sans their toddler-represents the detective hunt into her past that has caused her much hardship.

Anna is the type of mother who rattles her parents with specific instructions before leaving, such as which exact vegetables to puree and the strict listing of emergency contacts. All the while, Adam just smiles and quietly says sorry to whoever Anna is railing against. He’s not big on family history diving and when his grandfather’s ceremony in Poland for a destroyed Jewish community village comes up, he goes simply for time away with his wife. But of course, things don’t exactly go as planned (Anna’s mom shows up unexpectedly, fighting, genetic arguments) and that leads Elise Otzenberger’s film down some interesting paths for the viewer.

The 88-minute film moves at a decent pace, throwing us into the young Parisian couple’s everyday life before uprooting them to a place, Anna’s father warns, is known to be mostly antisemitic. That doesn’t stop her from talking to everyone, connecting with strangers, and trying to find the link in her grandmother’s story while her husband is all about eating fancy food and relaxing. To him, it’s an unwanted trip down memory lane, a place his wife prefers to him.

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Chemla and Igual find poignancy in the chaotic journey that Anna and Adam take, pushing back and pulling back in over the course of a few days on their honeymoon. They have Jewish origins by birth only, favoring the loud and lively city of Paris to old villages and family secrets.

I hadn’t seen the actors in anything else beforehand but if there was a role for newcomers to get to know their talents, “My Polish Honeymoon” would be a nice start. They are good actors who can keep up with the rapid-fire style of dialogue that is seen in films involving the French language–which can be beautiful yet ruthless at the same time.

There are few surprises in this film’s third act, but thankfully a big reveal isn’t required in Mathias Gavarry and Otzenberger’s script. This is more about understanding who you were born from, and what you’re supposed to do with that information. Would it change you to know that your grandparents had a certain mindset and way of life that you couldn’t have possibly considered? “My Polish Honeymoon” is a well-written drama masquerading as a comedy. I didn’t laugh too much, but I left wondering what would happen if I tracked out to Lebanon to see if my past still had a home there.

This film could sneak up on you emotionally if you let it. At the very least, it’ll make you curious about your story and how far back it goes.

All it takes is one click on ChaiFlicks, “the Jewish Netflix,” to watch “My Polish Honeymoon.” Invite the family for this one. Just warn them about Anna’s ferocity first.