Good Bye, Lenin!, a huge hit in Germany and across Europe, may sound like sitcom stuff, a wacky mistaken-identity plot inflated to national dimensions. In fact, as handled with expert tenderness by director and co-writer Wolfgang Becker, the trope works splendidly as both political metaphor and love story. If some Iraqis can look back with a twisted longing on the more orderly days of Saddam's rule, why can't East Germans get a little misty over the Honecker regime? As they do. It's called Ostalgie, or Eastalgia. The film taps the universal suspicion that whatever Now is like, Then was better.
Mother love in movies is usually treated as an affliction (paging Norman Bates). Here, it's Alex's expression of gratitude for the years Christiane devoted to raising him and an early shouldering of the responsibility a son may assume when a parent declines and the child becomes the caregiver. With the narrative briskness of Amelie and a nimble political savvy, Good Bye, Lenin! is a romantic comedy so smart and sweetly mature, it's liberating.