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"Barbara" is an intriguing little character study, set behind the Iron Curtain not long before it fell.

Barbara (Nina Hoss) is a 1980s Berlin doctor reassigned to a rural hospital, and she's determined to serve her stint there without getting involved with any of the locals — while she secretly meets with her West German boyfriend (Mark Waschke) and plots a daring escape to the West. But she soon feels empathy for a patient, Stella (Jasna Fritzi Bauer), a pregnant teen in a labor camp, and starts feeling attraction to the hospital's lead doctor (Ronald Zehrfeld).

Writer-director Christian Petzold keeps the focus on the small details of Barbara's new life, from day-to-day hospital work to the regular indignities of the local secret-police agent (Rainer Bock). The fluid storytelling leaves room for Hoss to deliver a strong performance as the flinty, rebellious doctor.



Opens Friday, Jan. 11, at the Broadway Centre Cinemas; rated PG-13 for some sexual material, thematic elements and smoking; in German with subtitles; 105 minutes.

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