By Lynn Venhaus
Alternating light humor with traumatic memories, “Treasure” never really comes together as an effective homeland revisit by a Holocaust survivor and his well-meaning daughter.

An uncomfortable odd couple road trip feels leaden and disjointed, which is disappointing given the two gifted performers and an acclaimed team behind this misfire.

Adapted from the 1999 semi-autobiographical novel, “Too Many Men” by Lily Brett, “Treasure” stars Lena Dunham as a deeply unhappy divorced New York journalist who has taken her widowed father to his homeland.

As Ruth Rothwax, Dunham thinks a look back into family history will help her connect to her father, Edek, a wonderfully genial Stephen Fry. For reasons clear to everyone but his daughter, Edek is a reluctant guide, and indifferent to seeing historical sights and places that remind him of his past family life.

There is a great pain there that is barely delved into — honestly. I mean, how does one get past that? (And there have been countless movies addressing those topics with far greater depth).

This attempt to add humorous situations feels forced. The pair clearly exasperate each other. It’s 1991 and Edek’s wife has been dead for about a year. He still considers his daughter’s ex-husband a friend and can’t understand why they are no longer married.

Not wanting to take a train, he hires a taxi driver, Stefan, to be their chauffeur. He’s played with a droll sense of humor by the terrific Polish actor Zbigniew Zamachowki, a veteran of the “Three Colors” films – Red, White and Blue.

As the pair bicker, their differences are stark – dad is an extrovert and daughter is an introvert. He loves to have a good time and engage people in conversation; she’d rather be reading.

Traveling through Poland provides a rich sense of history, most of it unpleasant. Ruins are everywhere, recalling a time of Nazi occupation and the fall of the Iron Curtain in a country that hasn’t recovered nor has reconciled with its past. The production design by Katarzyna Sobanska and Marcel Slawinski effectively portrays the complexities. They worked on the stunningly atmospheric Polish films “Ida” (Oscar winner for Best International Feature) and “Cold War.”

Director Julia von Heinz’s heart is in the right place, but the script she has co-written with her husband and frequent collaborator John Quester never really fleshes out the relationships in an engaging way.

That’s not to say there aren’t moments of devastating poignancy, especially when Edek returns to his family’s home, a childhood memory before they were rounded up and sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau.

The family currently living there is defensive and downright hostile, lying that they don’t have anything left of Edek’s family, but he discovers their possessions tucked away in places.

The most stunning – and horrific – footage is Edek’s return to the death camp, now a tourist site. Of course, it conjures up the trauma and the ghosts of what happened there. The wide shots of rows and rows of barracks remains a powerful testament to men’s inhumanity to man.

That’s tough for anyone, let alone the character revisiting the scars, and having the scabs ripped off.

The most puzzling aspect of this storytelling is to bring up tiny details about Ruth’s neuroses but only provide snippets without much context – her marriage issues, her eating disorder, self-tattooing numbers. We don’t ever get a sense of Edek’s wife and Ruth’s mother, either.

Dunham and Fry appear to genuinely connect, but something about this template doesn’t elevate the relationship beyond the tropes. Dunham, who hasn’t done much acting since ending her popular “Girls” series on HBO, and Fry, a beloved British multi-hyphenate, do what they can with the underwritten roles.

Trying to understand the Holocaust’s effect on her family and the focus on heritage is a noble gesture, but not sure that experience is enough to sustain this as a film. It sputters when it tries to be sentimental.

“Treasure” is a 2024 comedy-drama directed by Julia von Heinz and starring Lena Dunham and Stephen Fry. It is rated R for language and run time is 1 hour, 51 minutes. It opened in select theatres June 14. Lynn’s Grade: C-.

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