Victoria (Laia Costa), who has failed to make the final cut in music school in Madrid, is now steaming lattes in Berlin, her dream of playing concert piano stopped cold. Coming out a of club one night near dawn, she meets Sonne (Frederick Lau), Boxer (Franz Rogowski), Blinker (Burak Yigit), and Fuß (Max Mauff)—no, not reindeer, but Berliners with no particular place to be.
A tour de force, Victoria’s 138 minutes were filmed in one shot in real time, but director Sebastian Schipper’s manipulation of duration during the shoot is anything but metronomic. While Victoria and the young men loiter on the streets, she on her bike and the gang milling about her, time expands to fit the slow sorting out of relationships. Sonne, a swain in clown’s clothing, steadily and ardently seeks Victoria’s favor. Blinker concedes the contest by dubbing her “Sister,” a term affectionate but not romantic. The intense quasi-skinhead, Boxer, shows off by bossing around the others. Fuß’s birthday celebration has left him too tipsy to compete.
The young men’s clubhouse is someone else’s rooftop, where they bring Victoria to smoke, drink, joke, flirt, and confide. She unnerves them by swinging her legs over the side of the building. Victoria is up for anything. When the hour approaches for her to open the café, Sonne accompanies her. There is a piano in the café, and she plays for him. They recognize a seriousness in each other that makes them reluctant to part ways as night turns into day. The spell is broken, however, when Boxer arrives, demanding that Sonne help him return a favor for a man who protected him in prison.
Four men are needed for the job—a bank heist—but Fuß is too drunk to be of use. Boxer becomes hysterical. If he doesn’t deliver, he is in big trouble. As time accelerates under pressure, Victoria and Sonne’s competence in an absurd and dangerous situation emerges. Sonne steadies himself to be the frontman; Victoria, behind the wheel of the getaway car, deals with Boxer’s aggression and Blinker’s cocaine-induced panic attack. The heist goes off without a hitch. Flush with cash and adrenaline, the four barge into a club—they never close in Berlin—hugging, dancing, drinking, mooning. Victoria and Sonne kiss for the first time.
In the greatest crime stories, the deed itself is only the beginning, as the often-amateur perpetrators face the consequences, whether guilt, mutual mistrust, arrest, a life in hiding, or a bloody shootout. This is also the case with Victoria and the four young people at loose ends in Berlin whose 138 minutes together have attained the gravitas of a lifetime.