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The Good Ol' Bad Days 

Keeping the Cold War illusion alive

In the German import Good Bye, Lenin!, Alex Kerner has already seen his mother, Christiane, suffer enough. She's been abandoned by her husband and had to work as an East German party official to support Alex (Daniel Bruhl) and his sister Ariane (Maria Simon). Then, after she sees her son protesting the Berlin Wall and beaten for his views, she suffers a heart attack and spends eight months in a coma.

So when the Berlin Wall comes down and Christiane (Kathrin Sass) finally emerges from her slumber, Alex protects his apparatchik mother from the potentially health-endangering shock of reunification.

He decorates her room in beige, hides his own job as a satellite TV salesman and his sister's job at Burger King, and works a double shift trying to convince his mother that she is still living in communist East Berlin.

Though Alex's elaborate deceptions initially seem cruel -- and a joke director Wolfgang Becker takes too far -- one soon realizes that what he thinks he is doing for his mother, Alex is actually doing for himself.

With every dream of freedom seen in the fall of the Berlin Wall, there were undoubtedly fears and regrets: of one's motherland crumbling, of a way of life gone, of having to suddenly embrace a strange new world of porn and fast food. Good Bye, Lenin! suggests that, for good and bad, one's home is still one's home, and the same country his mother believed in may be equally hard for her son to let go.

Good Bye, Lenin! is an emotionally charged family drama with a message that may surprise some Westerners who have come to see capitalism as the evolutionary ideal to which the entire world aspires. Maybe not, the film's thought-provoking coda suggests.

Beneath its quirky contrast of East and West, of grim gray fashion and bright capitalist colors, Good Bye, Lenin! is a memorably melancholy film about the entire Kerner family seeing both mother and motherland suddenly mortal and weak.

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