The film is based very loosely on, and called mostly false by him, the life of artist Gerhard Richter, here called Kurt Barnert, and his struggle as an artist and with life discovering just who he is and we go along on his journey.
We meet young Kurt (Cai Cohrs) in 1937, about 5 years old, and follow him through the next 3 decades. In the opening scenes he goes to see the infamous Degenerate Art exhibition in Dresden, Germany, with his much-loved aunt Elizabeth (Saskia Rosendahl) who tells him "everything that is true is beautiful" and "never look away".
Shortly after Elizabeth, due to a couple of 'incidents' is hospitalized and then sterilized under the Nazi regime policy of 'cleansing' the races. This all takes place under the supervision of Professor Carl Seeband (Sebastian Koch), a top gynecologist and Nazi.
We next meet Kurt as an art student, played by Tom Schilling, who meets Ellie (Paula Beer) studying clothes designing, they fall in love and she becomes pregnant. Her father wants her to abort the baby because discovering who the father is, wants someone better for his daughter and, if nothing else, believes that would end the affair. It doesn't and the couple marry. They had met at the Art Academy where Kurt is studying modern art which doesn't quite fulfill the inspiration he needs/wants.
Just as we meet quite a few interesting fellow students at the Academy there are also many other characters that come and go through the movie but to say anything would create spoilers and would take away from the movie.
"Never Look Away" follows many stories from Nazi Germany to communism, the Berlin Wall, a divided Germany, changes in society, biological facts of life but most of all it is a love story between two people and a story of art, what it represents, how it changes over time and like life the more things change the more they stay the same.
Though epic in theme and running a little over 3 hours the only negative I have to say is that as interesting as I found this film I watched it as an observer not getting involved, mainly because of Tom Schilling. He does an excellent job as the artist in his search for meaning in his life and the love story is the backbone of the film but something just doesn't work between him and Paula Beer.
P. S. In the fight for equal rights full frontal nudity by females should be met with the same amount of time by frontal nudity by males or just eliminate both!