”Mother slept through the relentless triumph of capitalism,” Alex (Daniel Bruhl) narrates in Good Bye, Lenin!, a funny and intermittently sharp German satire that musters gentle nostalgia for East German communism while mocking the not-so-distant past. Christiane (Katrin Sass) sank into a coma following a heart attack as she glimpsed her teenage son being beaten in a protest march. Now the woman who once devoted herself with comic ardor to the cause of Leninism and its dowdy, home- economics schemes awakens not knowing that the Berlin Wall has fallen and Western enterprise has changed her world.
And Alex ensures that, confined to her bed, Christiane never knows. Warned that any shock might kill her, the son makes his mother as comfy in her time capsule as a cosmonaut. He drags out the flimsy, Soviet-era furniture so recently tossed in the trash, pays local kids to visit dressed like young Communist scouts, and even creates fake videotaped news reports to explain strange phenomena, such as the huge Coca-Cola banner seen billowing from the dingy apartment building across the way.
Director Wolfgang Becker, 49, who witnessed the decline and fall of grim, state-run ”progress” with full boomer consciousness, is deft at culling details that convey losses as well as gains — a swastika scrawled, with new brazenness, in an elevator, but also tolerable diapers for Alex’s baby niece. Meanwhile, the deeper we go into Alex’s Potemkin village, the more ”Good Bye, Lenin!” is blurred by a soft sentimentality that doesn’t distinguish between jokes about what didn’t work from a longing for what could have.