In Germany, as in America, it seems that the price of postage is rising. Christian Petzold's potent follow-up to 2007's Yella owes a debt to James M. Cain's novel The Postman Always Rings Twice, but it's debt of the monetary kind that chokes the inhabitants of the title East German town.
After a dishonorable discharge from the army, Thomas (Benno Fürmann) returns home for his mother's funeral, only to be left penniless and unconscious when a former associate comes collecting. His luck seems to change when he meets Ali (Hilmi Sözer), a Turkish immigrant who owns a string of snack bars.
Although successful, Ali is distrustful of everyone, a drunk who's living "in a country that doesn't want me. With a woman . . . that I bought." That would be Laura (Yella's Nina Hoss), a slinky blonde ex-con whose debts he absorbed when he married her. Not long after Thomas becomes Ali's driver, the ex-soldier embarks on an affair with his boss's wife, with disastrous but unexpected results.