Movie review: This taut, accomplished film from Fatih Akin tells a terribly sad and often mesmerizing story. Rating: 3½ stars out of 4.

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The German thriller “In the Fade” puts us face to face with loss, and with what happens when a world shatters, leaving only darkness in its wake. Katja (Diane Kruger) lives contentedly with her Kurdish husband Nuri (Numan Acar) and adorable young son Rocco; Nuri previously served jail time for drug dealing but has reformed and embraced family life. One day, Katja drops off Rocco at his father’s office and goes to visit her sister (Samia Chancrin). Returning later to collect them, she finds a nightmare: crowds, flashing lights, a building leveled by a bomb and a sad-eyed police officer with terrible news. The sound fades out around Katja — all we hear is her breathing, and, eventually, her screams.

All this is in the first few minutes of this taut, accomplished film from Fatih Akin (“The Edge of Heaven,” “The Cut”); most of “In the Fade” is aftermath. While Katja is convinced that Nazis targeted and killed her family, the police — though outwardly sympathetic — believe drug connections from Nuri’s earlier life are behind the murder. Eventually, with the help of an attorney (Denis Moschitto) who was a close friend of Nuri’s, steps are taken toward justice, and “In the Fade” becomes a courtroom drama. Katja, looking pale under harsh fluorescent lighting, tries to hold herself together while staring at the people she believes to be responsible for the bombing. This grieving woman, we realize, has become a ticking bomb herself; you wait for her to detonate.

Akin, who has said that the movie is inspired by recent real-life killings by a neo-Nazi terror cell in Germany, finds some poignant details: a tiny coffin painted with stars and moons; a tribute offering of candles outside Nuri’s office, in the cold rain; a little boy’s pirate ship on the rim of the bathtub, in the sightline of a mother who can’t bear to move it. But mostly, he focuses on Kruger’s face. Katja tries to numb her pain with drugs but can’t; what we see in her expression is someone who’s been ripped open. Filmed in harsh grays and cruel light, interspersed with warm home movies of the family in a happier time, it’s a terribly sad and often mesmerizing story.

Movie Review ★★★½  

‘In the Fade,’ with Diane Kruger, Denis Moschitto, Johannes Krisch, Samia Chancrin, Numan Acar. Written and directed by Fatih Akin. 105 minutes. Rated R for some disturbing images, drug use, and language including sexual references. AMC Dine-In 10 (21+)

Though a hit in Germany and a 2018 Golden Globe Award winner, “In the Fade” raised some eyebrows when it didn’t get a nomination for the foreign-language Academy Award last month. The Oscars, as always, work in mysterious ways.

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