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Despite the squalor and the misery—or maybe because of it—there’s something inherently hopeful about socialism. In Good Bye, Lenin!, adherents to the movement also seem both impossibly stubborn and improbably pie-eyed. The film opens in the late ’80s, at a time when the Berlin Wall is set to topple and most such true believers have faded into the background. But while her fellow East Germans dream of leaving the Soviet bloc behind, Christiane Kerner (Katrin Sass) remains resolute. Her husband went West with his “enemy of the state” girlfriend when the kids were small, and now she’s sworn off romantic love in favor of writing petitions to improve state-made consumer goods. So it’s a shocker when her son, Alex (Daniel Brühl), is arrested for marching in a protest. Christiane has a heart attack, then falls into a monthslong coma. When she wakes up, the Wall is gone and the West has come East. With his bedridden mother’s condition so fragile, Alex can’t bear to tell her that Coca-Cola banners have replaced party flags and that her daughter has dropped out of school to work at a Burger King. Director and co-writer Wolfgang Becker displays a masterful command of tone and comic timing in documenting Alex’s labors to build his mother an oasis of East German deprivation in the midst of his country’s newfound bounty: He pays schoolchildren to sing socialist standards, recruits his aspiring director friend to film fake news stories in the style of East German propaganda, and roots through the garbage for jars once containing his mom’s beloved Spreewald gherkins to fill with post-GDR pickles. Both Sass and Brühl perform with appropriate charm, and though Becker is a bit too fond of denoting wackiness with fast-motion montages, he never allows the film’s comedy to become too broad or too biting. Alex’s machinations, in fact, offer a touching parallel to the quixotic essence of soviet-style socialism: Willful disbelief is all well and good, but eventually you have to wake up. And after that, you have to go outside. —Josh Levin