In many territories, Lucía Puenzo’s third feature film – to follow the critically acclaimed XXY and The Fish Child – actually goes by the name of ‘The German Doctor’. Here, in the UK, it’s called Wakolda, which represents a more fitting, symbolic title to truly capture the essence of this moving, disquieting drama. Wakolda is the name of our 12 year old protagonist’s doll, and is therefore emblematic of her innocence, which is far more poignant. After all, this picture is not about the doctor, as such, but his relationship with the young Lilith, finding a strand of intimacy amidst an otherwise comprehensive, implicative narrative.

Lilith is played by the newcomer Florencia Bado, who is remarkably small for her age, and is often the victim of much teasing at school as a result. However there appears to be a cure for her lack of growth, as a local German doctor (Àlex Brendemühl) is adamant he can make her taller, and so attaches himself to her family, following them as they leave their abode for pastures new, eventually convincing them to let him stay at their home. While parents Eva (Natalia Oreiro) and Enzo (Diego Peretti) entrust this stranger to treat their young daughter, what they don’t realise, is that he’s Josef Mengele, a notorious, barbaric Nazi war criminal, unaffectionately named the ‘Angel of Death’, hiding in Argentina to escape the Israeli agents on his tail.

Where this compelling piece comes into its element, is by taking somebody so heinous, and so nefarious, and viewing upon them from the blissfully ignorant perspective of a young child. In a similar vein to both Mud and Joe – except far more severe – we’re analysing somebody so flawed (something of an understatement in this instance) in such a naïve, simplistic way, stripping this person of their inherent malevolence, and attempting to humanise a monster. What certainly helps is the level of subtlety early on, as Mengele is not stereotypically, or cinematically evil. Puenzo strips this role of cliché, and instead we see a more studious man.

Though it’s a great credit to Brendemühl that he is able to act in such a way, and yet the sinister edge to the character’s demeanour remains prevalent throughout, and he has a distinctively manipulative nature, which we need to see to believe in him persuading this malleable family to allow him to be so heavily involved in their affairs. Sadly, such subtlety does not remain consistent in this title, with a series of obtrusive, discernible metaphors that are a little contrived in their conviction. Nonetheless, Bado remains the stand out performer however, taking such a nuanced role and carrying it so effortlessly, dealing with an array of mature, deep themes that she appears to be so confident in handling.

Meanwhile, the picture is beautifully shot and the serenity of the Argentine mountain landscape works as an effective contradiction to the deranged, demented narrative at hand. However it works both ways, as this pensive tone ensures the picture has a palpable lack of suspense. Given the nature of the film, and the fact Mengele is on the run, it’s not a side to this tale we explore with enough depth, as you’d hope – and expect – for just a little more intensity to make this picture even more affecting and accomplished a piece of cinema.