I've only seen one of the nominations for Best Picture at this weekend's Oscars - Argo, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

I dare say I'll get round to watching the others in the months and years ahead, but the category that I think is often the more reliable guide to the best films of the year is the Best Foreign Language Film.

In recent years it has included such hush favourites as A Separation, The Counterfeiters, The Secret In Their Eyes, The Lives Of Others and The Sea Inside. And that's just the winners.

Barbara, which was this year's nomination from Germany and which I watched on the plane back from Australia last month, didn't even make the shortlist - which hopefully means either that we're in for a treat with this year's selections.

Because it is a really engrossing drama in the mould of the brilliant The Lives Of Others, even if it's not quite its equal...

As with The Lives Of Others, it is set in Cold War East Germany under the oppressive gaze of the hated Stasi. The heroine Barbara is a Berlin-based doctor, who is sent to a small country town as punishment for applying for an exit visa.

As she plots her escape with her West German lover, she is initially stand-offish, making very clear her desire to get away from the tiny rural hospital where she is based.

But as she gets to know her colleagues, in particular her fellow doctor Andre with whom she shares a love of medicine if not the same politics, she warms to her new environment.

Barbara is often slow-moving but visually stunning. However, it is the depth of characterisation and some wonderful acting (in particular by Nina Hoss in the title role) that make it such an engrossing two hours.