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Storyline (warning: spoilers)
Katja, a tough tattooed blonde from Hamburg whose Kurdish husband Nuri, born in Turkey, is a former drug dealer (they met, we learn, when he sold hash to her in college). He’s still serving a prison sentence when they marry in the opening scenes, to the dismay of their respective families. A few years later, they’re a settled, respectable couple, running a small business and doting on their little son Rocco. Katja then discovers that Nuri, and young son, Rocco, have been killed by a bomb placed outside Nuri’s Hamburg accounting office. Every terrifying, unbearable beat of Katja’s emotional journey is rendered in acute detail. She has to go coffin shopping, for two sizes. She has to deal with accusations from both her parents and her in-laws, who are themselves drowning in anguish. She has to deal with cops asking questions about her husband’s religion and politics and shady past. She cries herself to sleep in her son’s bed, wondering aloud about how scared he must have been as he lay on the floor, dying.
But the film has three sections, and each part seems to assume a different set of genre conventions, a different set of emotional cues. After “Family,” the next, “Justice,” follows the suspenseful and, at times, infuriating trial that takes place after a neo-Nazi couple are accused of the bombing. The hard-nosed defence attorney questions everything, despite the fact that the sneering suspects appear guilty as sin; even the man’s father is convinced his Hitler-adoring son did it. When Katja suddenly charges at one of the attackers, amid the commotion of the trial, it’s easy to imagine that you might have done the same.