Thank you Netflix! Thanks for recommending Barbara, a German movie about Barbara a doctor in East Germany in the 1980s. Because she tried to defect to the West, the heroine, Barbara is exiled to a small town in the sticks. She’s assigned to a hospital and given a shabby, bare bones apartment. Taciturn and distrustful, Barbara keeps her distance from her new colleagues, even the friendly doctor AndrĂ©, who does turn out to be making reports on her.

I didn’t catch why Barbara was exiled to this outpost, but did read online it was because she tried to leave East Germany. Due to her attempted defection, Barbara is under scrutiny. One false step and officials will ransack her apartment. Though we don’t see who’s following her, when she rides her bike to a remote spot where her beau has hidden some money for her, she finds someone’s moved her bicycle and let the air out of her tires. In this atmosphere of Communism and surveillance, it’s no wonder why a person wouldn’t trust or open up.

The film works well offering tension and understanding as we see Barbara reach out to her patients, sacrificing for them and offering them more care than doctors usually do. That’s how Barbara and AndrĂ© connect–through their dedication to patients and their adherence to medical ethics.

Nina Hoss as Barbara

Nina Hoss as Barbara

On her off time, Barbara manages to rendezvous with her West German, beau, a wealthy professional who plans to get her out of East Germany.

The movie has minimal exposition, but there’s enough to know what’s at stake and to create the feeling of living under Communist rule in the 1980s. It drew me in and made me care.

Available on Netflix.