Good Bye Lenin! (2003)

(On DVD, September 2016) Describing the impact of the fall of the Soviet Union on East German seems like an impossible task, but Good Bye Lenin gives a clever high-concept to make it accessible: What if a son found it necessary to pretend to his frail mother, having recently emerged from a coma, that the Soviet empire never fell? What would it take to maintain such a deception, and how out-of-step would their reality be with the one outside the walls of their apartment? At time heartfelt and absurd, writer/director Wolfgang Becker’s film manages to portray the craziness of pivotal times and the heartbreak of good people trying to hold back change, at least in some limited way. Daniel Brühl (who has since become a well-known actor in Hollywood movies) shines as the protagonist building an ever-bigger lie on behalf of his mom. While the film isn’t entirely gripping from beginning to end (there’s a lot more than a big elaborate lie to the film, and Good Bye Lenin often loses energy in trying to sustain the most conventional parts of its story), there is a lot to like here, and it’s a fascinating everyday-life look at a very specific period of world history that often gets short thrift in history books beyond “the wall came down”. This is world cinema at its most accessible; charming, funny, dramatic and instructive at once.

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