After expressing her desire to leave East Germany, physician Barbara (Nina Hoss) is banished to a small hospital in a remote part of the country. There she is occasionally visited by her lover from the West, and together they plot her escape. However, the more time she spends in this sleepy, but generally rather pleasant community, the more she grows to like her new life here. While she does still receive the occasional surprise visit from the Stasi, there is a suggestion that life here is better than that from which she was banished.

The chief physician, Reiser, was ordered by the Stasi to question Barbara, but instead falls in love with her, impressed not only by her beauty and intelligence, but also by her professional abilities. Barbara’s preconceptions and scheming is further challenged as she grows closer to her patients, in particular a young female runaway suffering from meningitis.

An intriguing film with some strong performances and an engaging story must wrestle with cripplingly leaden plotting that will likely deter a number of less committed viewers. Those who can stick it out to the end will likely be impressed by what Barbara offers, but the film’s execution serves only to hinder its chances of reaching a wide audience.