Producers: Fabian Gasmia, Julia von Heinz and Lena Dunham   Director: Julia von Heinz   Screenplay: Julia von Heinz and John Quester   Cast: Lena Dunham, Stephen Fry, Zbigniew Zamachowski, Iwona Bielska, Maria Mamona, Wenanty Nosul, Klara Bielawka, Magdalena Celowna, Tomasz Wlosok and Sandra Drzymalska   Distributor: Bleecker Street

Grade: C

In 1991, an American journalist drags her father, a recently widowed Holocaust survivor, to his native Poland, shortly after its liberation from Soviet domination and communist rule.  It’s a trip he would clearly prefer to avoid, but has agreed to reluctantly, suggesting he must protect her while she’s there.  As portrayed in this film by Julia von Heinz—inspired, as the opening caption informs us, by a true story, though the screenplay by von Heinz and her husband John Quester is actually adapted from Lily Brett’s 1999 novel “Too Many Men”—the two are initially an unlikely pair, the father seemingly blasé and easily distracted, the daughter intense and focused.  Of course as the journey proceeds they experience a deepening emotional bond as they grow in mutual understanding.

From the start Edek Rothwax (Stephen Fry) treats the schedule obsessively crafted by his daughter Ruth (Lena Dunham) with what she considers deliberate nonchalance, keeping her waiting as he misses his flight by stopping for a fast-food meal and a book.  But his façade of easygoing geniality shows its first crack when he cringes at the thought of boarding the train on which she’s reserved passage, insisting instead on hiring a taxi whose driver Stefan (Zbigniew Zamachowski) will become their permanent chauffeur who will drive them to Edek’s hometown of Łódź and, ultimately, to Auschwitz-Birkenau.  She hasn’t foreseen that riding a train to the death camp he escaped from might be psychologically unsettling to him, and he refuses to admit the reason to her.

That thread follows the two through their journey, with Ruth determined to seek out her family history and Edek dismissing it as a past best forgotten.  Her focus is absolute, and when her father strikes up friendships along the way, as with fellow hotel guests Zofia (Iwona Bielska) and Karolina (Maria Mamona), or suggests skipping something she considers essential, she takes it as an affront to a higher purpose.

That becomes more apparent during their time in Łódź.  She can’t understand why Edek is reluctant to visit the building that once housed the Rothwax factory, and is irritated by his initial refusal to visit the family’s apartment, a derelict flat now occupied by Antoni Ulicz (Wenanty Nosul) and his daughter Irene (Klara Bielawka).  Antoni claims to have moved into the place only after it was empty, but it turns out that he did so immediately upon the Rothwaxes’ removal from it, first to the ghetto and then to the camps, and that he still has many of the family’s possessions.  Though Edek recognizes them, he insists they’re unimportant.  Ruth, however, enlists a hotel porter, Tadeusz (Tomasz Wlosok), to return to the apartment with her so she can purchase the remnants of the Rothwax history even at inflated prices; she recognizes them as precious relics.

The culmination of the road trip and the emotional journey comes, of course, at the camp, where Edek is overcome with the flood of memories he’s been struggling so hard to suppress.  He then insists that they return to the apartment building in Łódź, where he literally digs up the final part of the family treasure Ruth has been seeking, having come to terms with his own loss.

On the simplest level—that of a father and daughter overcoming the emotional barriers between the—“Treasure” has some affecting moments, particularly in the final chapter, when the wall that’s been dividing them finally breaks down.  But up to then the writing doesn’t provide either character with sufficient nuance—Edek’s repeated references to Ruth’s journalistic repute and her failed marriage to a fellow he likes come across as trite, for example, and Ruth’s reactions are uniformly dully severe.  Nor are the performances strong enough to overcome the lack of depth.  Fry makes Edek almost desperately ingratiating, and Dunham’s Ruth’s stifled anger is equally one-note; but while both come alive in the concluding scenes, by then it’s rather late.  The supporting players can be divided into two groups, likable and not, but none goes much beyond that. 

Technical credits are decent if unremarkable.  Post-Communist Poland looks dingy in the production design of Marcel Slawinski and Katarzyna Sobanska, Malgorzata Karpiuk’s costumes and Daniela Knapp’s cinematography (much of the film was actually shot in Germany), and Sandie Bompar’s editing is decent, if rather lumpy.

While undoubtedly sincere and well-meaning, this father-daughter road movie proves an unwieldy blend of tragedy and comedy, barely hinting at the horrifying inheritance that must be borne by Holocaust survivors and their families.