Goodbye Lenin (exclamation point removed for readability) is a German import from 2004, It looks back on the movement of East Germany towards unification and Westernization. Yes, that sounds like a boring historical documentary, but it's not.
The movie is a fictional family drama that uses the fall of the Berlin Wall as a backdrop and catalyst. The main story line concerns a devoted son trying to shield his mother from stress after she wakes from a heart attack and coma that overly weakens her frail body. Yes, that sounds like a heavy Lifetime Network chick flick, but it’s not.
The film is actually a light farce much of the time, relying quite often on typical dry German humor that takes a few seconds to register as a joke at all. Learning the comedic cues for movies such as this and Advertising Rules! is a strange experience for American audiences used to Hollywood's unambiguous laugh lines and gags. You may find yourself analyzing a piece of action or line of dialog and coming to the intellectual conclusion that it is funny before you laugh.
The plot of the movie does not depend on surprise for its effectiveness, so we can safely discuss the story. The film opens in the 1970s, showing a happy family in Socialist East Berlin. The mother is an idealistic believer in the Socialist system, but her son becomes a bit more disaffected as he grows older. In 1989, as protests start to grow, the mother suffers a shock that lays her out, throwing her into a coma (we have seen from earlier incidents that she is prone to physical and emotional frailty). With typical movie logic (you just have to take this in order to let the movie develop), she wakes up, but the doctors say that she can’t experience any stress, shock, or excitement or it could kill her.
Unfortunately, the months she spent in the coma included the entire dismantling of the Socialist system in East Germany and reunification with the West. So the son decides to shield her from any of these events and create a “bubble world” around her where things are the same as she remembers them. This is difficult to do, given the rampant upheaval in every aspect of society around them. He enlists co-conspirators and there are funny bits as he tries to cover up breaks in the facade.