Christian Petzold, the German film-maker renowned as a master of suspense, returns with this gloomy, implausible noir, set in the ruins of divided postwar Berlin. Nelly (Nina Hoss) is a Jewish woman left for dead in Auschwitz, who miraculously survived being shot in the face: once the bandages come off after reconstructive plastic surgery, she basically looks as good as new, but different. Her devoted friend Lene (Nina Kunzendorf) wants Nelly simply to recover her wealth from her Swiss bank account and come to live with her in the future state of Israel, but Nelly is on a obsessive, self-destructive mission to track down Johnny (Ronald Zehrfeld), the charming but treacherous husband who saved his own skin by selling her out to the Nazis. When she finds him, a startlingly macabre and in its way ingenious situation develops. Yet it is all fundamentally let down by the simple fact that the plastic surgery is ridiculously and unrealistically represented (rather like the 1997 Alejandro Amenabar movie Open Your Eyes, remade as a Tom Cruise vehicle called Vanilla Sky). Reconstructive surgery could never come anywhere near the convincing results shown here: not in 1945 – and not in 2015, come to that. The flaw is fatal, and the fantasy crumbles.
Peter Bradshaw is the Guardian's film critic