Lean Reviews

A review site for conservative, libertarian, center-right readers. We'll tell you what's good, what's bad, what's so-so, and what you'll like even if you have to stumble past liberal tropes to get to a good story

Movies: Goodbye, Lenin and The Best Years of Our Lives

by Libby Sternberg

The weekend is coming, the weekend is coming! Time for some quick reviews of movies to rent/stream/buy so you can stay out of the heat and in the cool while being entertained.

As I’ve done in the past, I’m presenting some flicks that might not be showing up on a lot of viewers’ radar screens either because they’re old or they’re just not as well-known as the latest blockbuster. But they’re movies I think Hot Air readers would enjoy.

Today’s selections have a theme: aftermaths. That is, the time after some cataclysmic event, and its rippling effects on people beyond the drama of the crisis moment.

First up, a comedy. Or maybe it’s a “dramedy.” Whatever, it’s a humorous look at life in Germany after the fall of the Wall:

Goodbye, Lenin (2003): It saddens me that this movie never received a tremendous amount of attention. Sure, it was nominated for a Golden Globe and won a truckload of European awards I’ve never heard of (the BAMBI?), but other lesser foreign films have received more attention over the years. Maybe that’s because Goodbye, Lenin is funny, and funny films always seem like the redheaded stepchild to Serious Films with Lots of Drama and Sometimes a Message. Goodbye, Lenin’s message? Change is hard, but a son’s love for his mother is eternal.

Here’s the story in a nutshell: Alex, a young East Berliner, is arrested in protests in 1989, leading to his good Communist mother’s heart attack and lapse into a coma. By the time the mother, Christiane, wakes up, the Wall has fallen and Germany is united. But for Christiane, this joyful news might cause too great a shock and a relapse. Alex, with the help of friends and his sister, therefore decides to recreate East Berlin in their apartment as Christiane recuperates, a task made challenging by the lack of poor-quality goods and foods Christiane had come to love, and the expansion of Western companies into the new Germany. The movie is filled with humor, both subtle and laugh-out-loud (one involving a Coke banner being unveiled outside Christiane’s window), and with complicated poignancy as Alex and his family struggle to take advantage of the new Germany’s opportunities while trying to dig out from the havoc East German policies wreaked on their lives (Alex’s father escaped to the west, breaking apart the family).

Yes, it’s in German with English subtitles, but it’s worth the viewing. Highly recommend. I’ve watched it more than once. For a taste, here’s the trailer:

Second up, an old chestnut, a drama, about life for three warriors after World War II:

The Best Years of Our Lives (1946): This has long been one of my favorite films since I finally watched it for the first time about a dozen years ago. I think I love it so because it captures the zeitgeist of my “wonder years” and that of many baby boomers’ whose parents had been affected by the war in some way. It creates that sigh-of-relief-tinged-with-melancholy mood that seemed to pervade my childhood, when my father’s army uniform still hung on a rack in the basement and where friends’ fathers wouldn’t talk of their war experiences because they were too painful, and life was good now.

The plot follows three fellows who served on land, sea and air, returning to their hometown, Boone City, to pick up the threads of their lives at war’s end. The medal-winning airman comes home to a wife he married in haste, only to discover that he yearns for stability and comfort more than fun-loving frivolity now, and his job prospects are slim despite a hero’s past. A seaman who lost both his hands (played by a real amputee veteran) has to find a way to let his fiancé back into his life now that he’s not whole, and an army sergeant blunts his existential angst with alcohol as he steps back into his bank management job and comfortable family life (see if you can remain dry-eyed in his reunion scene here, brilliantly captured without a close-up of the embracing couple). This description might paint a picture of a relentlessly depressing film, but The Best Years of Our Lives is about hope and rebirth, pervaded by a sunny American optimism even at its lowest moments. All three men ultimately find some measure of peace and even love. The cast includes Myrna Loy, Frederic March, Dana Andrews, Virginia Mayo and Teresa Wright, each giving spectacular performances. It won seven Oscars, including for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Frederic March). If you’ve never seen this flick, add it to your list. Well worth the trip back in time. You can watch what appears to be the official trailer here. But I also recommend this remix, which shows many more scenes:

Happy viewing!


Libby Sternberg is a novelist. This post originally appeared at Hot Air.


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This entry was posted on July 14, 2012 by in Movies, Uncategorized and tagged , , , .

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