Good Bye Lenin! (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner21/07/2003

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 121 mins

Well-acted, and occasionally moving comedy-drama, but it can’t really sustain its premise over the two hour running time.

Good Bye, Lenin! is that rare thing, a German comedy. (No! Wait! Come back! Etc.) It’s also a surprisingly moving ‘feel good’ movie, with some good gags, though it drags a little in the middle.

The film is set around the fall of the Berlin Wall and the plot (and central joke) is as follows. Christiane (Katrin Sass) is a staunch Communist and single mother raising two teenagers. While on a demonstration, she collapses and falls into a coma, a few weeks before the Berlin Wall comes down…

Bad Time For A Nap

When she awakes, several months later, the doctor tells her family (including her teenage son, Alex, played by Daniel Bruhl) that she has a weak heart and that any further surprises could be fatal, so they conspire to let her believe that she's still under Communist rule and that nothing has changed.

From this simple premise, writer-director Wolfgang Becker wrings some extremely good gags, such as Alex frantically searching for old Soviet gherkin containers in which to transfer the new, ‘capitalist’ gherkins his mother likes. There are also some good moments that require Alex to think on his feet, such as the unfurling of a giant Coca-Cola banner outside his mother’s bedroom window.

The two leads are excellent and the supporting cast are extremely good too, particularly Maria Simon as Alex’s sister, who enthusiastically takes to her new job at Burger King and the influx of ‘80s clothing, and Florian Lukas, as Alex’s wannabe film-maker best friend, who helps out by making fake news broadcasts. There’s also strong support from Russian actress Chulpan Khamatova as Alex’s girlfriend, who grows tired of all the deception.

Somewhat Overlong

Although the film is a little too long to really sustain its comedic premise, there’s a lot to like, most notably the way the historical background is used as a metaphor for the break-up of the family, with Alex desperately trying to keep everything as it was. Consequently, some of the film’s most moving sequences occur when the estranged father returns – these scenes are notable for being under-played, but they work extremely well.

There’s also a superb score, by Yann Tiersen, and if it seems familiar, it’s because Tiersen also scored Amelié. In fact, at one point, he includes a track that’s directly lifted from his own score for Amelié – surely there are rules about that sort of thing?

In short, Good Bye, Lenin! is an enjoyable, occasionally moving feel-good comedy drama, despite a slow middle section and an overlong running time. Worth watching.

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Good Bye Lenin! (15)
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Content updated: 23/09/2018 15:45

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