A mother’s worst nightmare is realized and relived in the most devastating way in director Fatih Akin’s suspenseful crime drama In The Fade.

Set on the unrelentingly cold streets of Hamburg, Germany, an unprovoked bombing by a pair of Neo-Nazis shatters Katja’s world, leaving her widowed and childless in an instant. Nominated for a Golden Globe and Critic’s Choice award among others, In The Fade is also German’s official Oscar entry for Best Foreign Language Film.

The film begins with a simple title card: Family. Old home movies show a tattooed Katja (Diane Kruger) with her ex-con Kurdish-German husband Nuri (Numan Acar) as they say “I do” at their unconventional prison wedding (he served time for selling drugs). The footage shows a family that may be tough and hardened in appearance, but are very sweet and rich in love. Katja’s life gets turned upside down in the most violent of ways when she discovers that her husband and their six-year-old son Rocco (Rafael Santana) were the only two deaths in a mysterious bombing which took place outside of Nuri’s office. In between self-medication and nervous breakdowns, Katja believes she has a clue that could lead detectives to her family’s murderers… if only somebody would listen.

The second chapter of the film reads: Justice. Court dates, testimonies, and false alibis force her to relive that day over and over again. As if that wasn’t painful enough, the court’s unsatisfactory ruling pushes Katja to the brink of losing it. She decides once and for all to take justice into her own hands when the system fails her. That leads up to the last chapter of the film: The Sea. The ocean is a universal sign of rebirth, but director Fatih Akin doesn’t take this theme literally. In fact, the last chapter proves to be the strongest yet and makes In The Fade, as a whole, an incredibly powerful story.

In what is remarkably her first German-made movie, German-born actress Diane Kruger gives one of her strongest performances to date as Katja.

In what is remarkably her first German-made movie, German-born actress Diane Kruger gives one of her strongest performances to date as Katja. From the initial blood-curling scream of discovering her loved one’s deaths to the eerily subdued conversations with Nuri’s parents and picking out a child-sized casket with her sister, Kruger’s performance as a grieving mother, in all of its stages, is a triumphant tour de force.

There are character similarities between Katja and All the Money in the World‘s Gail Getty, another memorable performance by actress Michelle Williams. The theme of a mother’s relentless quest for answers and a fearless, “do whatever it takes” attitude makes her a heroine worth standing by and rooting for.

In The Fade is a challenging movie to sit through just based on its content, but it’s beautifully composed cinematography and phenomenal performances make it the challenges worth it.

‘In the Fade’ is rated R for some disturbing images, drug use, and language including sexual references 106 minutes. Now playing at the Laemmle Royal with a national release to follow.