Good Bye, Lenin!

Director: Wolfgang Becker

Germany| 2003. English subtitles. Colour. Dolby digital stereo. 121 mins.

This heart-warming comedy actually has the weight of history behind it as the farcical plot parallels the momentous reunification of the two Germanys. It’s 1989, ten years after the father walked out on them, and now Alex (Daniel Bruhl) and his single-mum sister Ariane (Maria Simon) have to cope with the fact that their socialism-loving mother Christiane (Katrin Sass) is in a coma following a heart attack. During the next eight months, everything outside changes. The Berlin Wall is pulled down, the East German government is dismantled and capitalism invades from the West. So when mother wakes up, Alex and Ariane tell her that nothing has changed, because they wouldn’t want to stress her heart with the truth. But it gets tricky to hide the truth. . . .
This is a very clever film, intelligently and artistically using the period and weaving the historic themes into a gently comic tale that takes us to this remarkable time and place. The characters are so well written and played that we immediately identify with them all: Alex’s frantic desperation to keep things the way the were; Ariane’s desire to move on with her Western boyfriend (the hilarious Alexander Beyer) and a new job at Burger King; Christiane’s dawning realisation that the world has changed while she was unconscious. Director and co-writer Becker has the skills to weave in a tender and somewhat complex romance, as well as some emotional moments that catch the back of our throats, especially when the issue of the long-lost father comes around again. The nature of the truth in restoring relationships is very subtly woven in here, and it’s powerful stuff indeed.

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