The spirit of RW Fassbinder presides over this intense, personal drama. Hanna Flanders might be a distant cousin to Lola or Maria Braun, except that she's based on director Röhler's mother, novelist Giseta Elsner. Like Fassbinder, Röhler links his tragic heroine's psyche to the political sphere. The film's set in 1989, as the Berlin Wall comes down. Germany is high on freedom and truth - in fact, almost everyone Hanna meets on her pilgrimage to Berlin is literally drunk - but the novelist is in despair. A Leninist to her core, long ago rejected by publishers in the West, she mourns the victory of consumerism over the Communist ideal. A woman of a certain age and then some, she's formidable, articulate, and a bag of neuroses, teetering on the high heels of collapse. Röhler gets a brave, brittle performance out of Hannelore Elsner (no relation): together, they don't soften this often ridiculous, lost and unlovely woman, but make us grateful for the small kindnesses she encounters on her way. Shot in stark, sometimes lovely monochrome, and directed with impressive assurance and sensitivity, this is a tough, intelligent film of a kind not often encountered.