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Movie Review: 'Treasure' Starring Lena Dunham

Lena Dunham takes a tour of Poland in 'Treasure'

By Sean PatrickPublished about a month ago 3 min read

Treasure (2024)

Directed by Julia Von Heinz

Written by Julia Von Heinz, John Quester

Starring Lena Dunham, Stephen Fry

Release Date June 14th, 2024

Published June 17th, 2024

Treasure stars Lena Dunham as a New York Times reporter on vacation in Poland. It's 1991 and Ruth (Dunham) has come to Poland to see where her parents were born. Joining Ruth is her doting, loving, and a bit goofy dad, Edek (Stephen Fry). Though he told her that this trip was not worth the time and effort, Ruth has insisted and he's come along to make sure she gets around safely. His memories of Poland are the driving force of the story as he survived being at Auschwitz during the War.

Ruth wants to know what her father's experience was like but she's a bit obtuse about how her desire for knowledge affects her father. This comes to light for us, if not for her, when she purchases train tickets to his home city and he refuses. He claims he'd rather ride in a Mercedes owned by a new friend of his, Stefan (Zbigniew Zamachowsk), a cab driver who Edek managed to charm into being their driver in the time it took Ruth to use the bathroom at the airport.

We know that the Mercedes is not the real draw. It's obvious to everyone, except for Ruth, that Edek doesn't like trains due to trauma. He and his family were carried to Auschwitz in cattle cars, forcibly separated upon arrival, and then he spent four years struggling to survive the harsh conditions while family member and friend alike ended up in the gas chamber. We won't learn much more about his luck in surviving, only that he and his wife, who has recently passed away, escaped when the camp was liberated by the allies.

Edek then immediately moved his family to New York City and has never looked back. Understandably so, Edek covers his trauma with good cheer while trying to steer Ruth away from the places where his memories are the most painful. One of those places is his childhood home, now occupied by the same people who had been given his home after his family was taken to Auschwitz. In a desperately awkward scene, Ruth bullies her way into her father's childhood home. There, she discovers that many of the things her family owned in 1940 are still there.

It's not a bad scene and, indeed, there are few bad scenes in all of Treasure. Stephen Fry brings a welcome warmth and pathos to Edek. He's a bear of a man with a big personality who makes friends wherever he goes because he innately understands how precious life is, having survived seeing so much sadness and death. Ruth is less warm and more selfish and self-involved. It takes most of the movie before she realizes the harm she's doing to Edek who, in fairness, won't admit how much being back in Poland hurts him.

The plot requires Ruth to be pushy and imperceptive and thus we fail to get a good sense of who she really is or what this all actually means to her. Meanwhile, the film structurally plays like a series of vignettes in which Stephen Fry is having a great time and Lena Dunham is constantly scratching at his old wounds. Then, the movie simply states that she was right to claw away at these old wounds, that they are better off having put Edek through all of this. It's a triumph that doesn't feel earned in the end.

Treasure is not a bad movie. It's well directed and the acting is quite good. It's valuable in that it tells a holocaust survivor story in a way that I haven't seen one portrayed before. Stephen Fry's complex and complicated performance is the highlight as he combines the multitude of motivations from self-protection to the stiff upper lip of a generation that felt sharing their vulnerable emotions was inappropriate. He keeps himself together until no one is looking because that's how he was taught to be his whole life, even with an unimaginable trauma weighing on him for most of his life.

Find my archive of more than 20 years and nearly 2000 movie reviews at SeanattheMovies.blogspot.com. Find my modern review archive on my Vocal Profile, linked here. Follow me on Twitter at PodcastSean. Follow the archive blog on Twitter at SeanattheMovies. Listen to me talk about movies on the I Hate Critics movie Review Podcast. If you have enjoyed what you have read, consider subscribing to my writing on Vocal. If you'd like to support my writing, you can do so by making a monthly pledge or by leaving a one time tip. Thanks!

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About the Creator

Sean Patrick

Hello, my name is Sean Patrick He/Him, and I am a film critic and podcast host for the I Hate Critics Movie Review Podcast I am a voting member of the Critics Choice Association, the group behind the annual Critics Choice Awards.

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