Alexander (Ilja Monti), a serious, young teenager auditions at a prestigious Berlin music school. The vote is split, but Anna Bronsky (Nina Hoss) stands up for him insisting she can train him.
Her obsessive quest begins to make the boy’s vocation distinct and draw out of him the unique sound she believes he possessed in his audition. However, Alexander does not respond well to her increasingly strict and regimented approach. Simultaneously, her personal life is collapsing. Her husband is seemingly aware of an affair she is having and her gifted 10-year-old musical son is disdainful towards her.
She is invited to join a quintet by her colleague and lover, Christian (Jens Albinus), a promising respite, but is reluctant to perform in concert and her eventual participation leads to an exceptionally embarrassing experience. Anna is pushed over the edge and doubles down on Alexander. Come the day of his exam, events take a tragic turn.