Weeks before the Wall comes down in 1989, a diehard East Berlin socialist (Katrin Sass) has a heart attack, lapsing into a coma and missing the action. When she awakens eight months later, East Germany is no more, and her 20-year-old son (Daniel Brühl) takes it upon himself to keep his fragile mother from dying of shock upon seeing these sudden changes to their country. Thus he concocts an elaborate hoax to make the poor woman believe that Communist East Germany is alive and well.
The idea behind this movie seems trite, like one long drawn-out Three's Company joke, and indeed it's been marketed in the US as such. But in truth, Good Bye Lenin! is a bittersweet fable about a family – and a nation – coping with massive, rapid change. For us Yankees who saw the fall of the Iron Curtain as an inarguably good thing, it's a reminder that it was, in fact, the end of the world as millions of people knew it, and for many it was not an easy or welcome new chapter in their lives. Little wonder, then, that as Good Bye Lenin! progresses, and the son's charade becomes more and more complicated, it's apparent that it's not so much for his mother's benefit that he keeps the East German ideal alive, but for his own.
This film was a big hit in Europe, where people still remember their history, and it deserves to be seen by Americans as an accurate, if comic, look at one of the biggest events of the last fifty years, and the repercussions – good and ill – it had on a country still plagued by its own past.
Enough. My review is too serious. Good Bye Lenin! is actually a lively, colorful crowd-pleaser, full of rich characters, attractive actors, and unexpected plot twists. Go see it.