We often try to bury the past—to forget the pain and suffering. That can be a good thing if we move on with life and find fulfillment. But often that buried past comes to haunt us. It may actually prevent the good life we hope for in the future until it is recognized and addressed.
Abraham Bursztein (Miguel Ángel Solá) is an 88 year old Holocaust survivor who has made a life for himself in Buenos Aires. But his health is failing. His children have sold his home and he is scheduled to move into a retirement home. But he has a secret plan to make one last trip—to return to Poland to take a suit to the Christian friend who saved his life after the War. But this is a trip that is not just about the gratitude he owes that friend; it is also about the resentments he has carried all these years.
The film is a road movie of his trip to find what has been missing from his life. In part the trip is an attempt to be in control of his life. His children have made all the decisions for him. But the trip is also driven by a long-forgotten promise. His life cannot be complete while that promise has not been fulfilled. He sees this as a one-way trip, as though he is doing this as one final task before he is ready for the end.
Abraham is a severe, judgmental, and bitter man who holds grudges forever. His family knows that he considers “Poland” a dirty word. As he makes this trip he refuses to say the word himself. He’ll only show a piece of paper with the word on it. We know that Poland is where terrible things happened to him. He continues to hold on to the anger against Poland, and even more Germany.
This road trip turns into a series of encounters that put his anger in perspective. He keeps meeting people who, in spite of his cheerlessness and even rudeness, seek to help him. Each of these people bring a touch of grace into his life. He begins to connect with them in ways that start to knock down the walls of his anger. When he comes to his final destination, we learn that what he is really trying to return to is the place where he first met grace in the actions of another. This time grace was a chance to return to life after being in the realm of death that was the Holocaust. When those walls are finally destroyed, Abraham is then free to love as he has not done for many years.
Watching the film, I constantly wondered why these people would respond to Abraham with kindness when he was always so mean-spirited. But then that is what makes it grace. Grace reaches out to those who do not deserve it. It is freely offered just because it is needed. The film does not talk about God, but it does show the way God—and God’s people—touch lives and bring new life.
Photos courtesy of Outsider Pictures