In the Holocaust drama “My Name Is Sara,” a Jewish girl hides out with a Ukrainian farming family and works as a nanny in exchange for food and shelter. Posing as a gentile, Sara (Zuzanna Surowy), tells the farmer, Pavlo (Eryk Lubos), and his wife, Nadya (Michalina Olszanska), that her name is Manya and that she has run away from a troubled home life.
Pavlo and especially Nadya appear to harbor suspicions about her story and lack of papers. Nadya repeatedly tests Sara. She asks her to cross herself, feeds her pork and summons her to help the boys with Christian prayers — something that Sara, for reasons revealed later on, does with relative ease. But even if the household mildly warms to Sara, the danger of discovery does not abate for nearly two years.
The film is sharp at illustrating how Sara is never totally safe, and how survival requires improvising again and again. Anti-Semitism is all around her even apart from the occupying Nazis. When she discovers that Nadya is having an affair, the balance of leverage and loyalties grows even more complicated.
Directed by Steven Oritt and written by David Himmelstein, the movie dramatizes some of the real wartime experiences of Sara Shapiro, born Sara Goralnik, who died in 2018. While the suspense and power of her story come through, the film can be clunkily expository and , with regard to tensions between Sara and Pavlo, frustratingly vague. Furthermore, having the Ukrainians mostly speak English with one another — despite the presence of Polish, Russian and German elsewhere in the movie — distracts from the verisimilitude.
My Name Is Sara
Not rated. In English, Polish, German and Russian, with subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 51 minutes. In theaters.