Daniel Brühl did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Alexander Kerner in Good Bye, Lenin!.
Good Bye, Lenin! is a terrific film about a young man in East Germany taking most unorthodox measurse to protect his mother from experiencing a fatal shock after a coma caused her to be unconscious through the entire German unification.
Daniel Brühl being a German actor obviously has played his share of Nazis as well as villains in his English language work, and even in his technically sympathetic roles he usually plays rather prickly sorts. It is quite a treat though to see him here in this role where he's not playing a Nazi, certainly not a villain, just a normal guy. Brühl's Alex in the opening scenes of the film is particularly normal young man living in East Germany though he does engage in just a bit of rebellion, the little that there can be against the totalitarian government. Really though Brühl's performance even suggests this is not as a major as it might seem portraying a far greater interest in running into a young woman also at the protest than in the protest itself. There is nothing questionable even in this though as Brühl brings a genuine unassuming charm to Alex, and in this early moment importantly shows his convictions in the moment where he is arrested and simultaneously his mother has her near fatal heart attack from the shock. Brühl is quite affecting in this moment in capturing the son's intense concern for his mother which is pivotal for the rest of the film.
Well that heart attack puts Alex's mother into a coma, which leaves her unaware of the German reunification which Alex and his sister Ariane fully embrace, though Alex continually visits his mother where he also finds that the young woman, Lara, he formerly met at the rally is one of her nurses. Brühl again is incredibly charming by offering such earnestness in both Alex's enthusiasm towards his new discoveries in Germany, but also in his constant concern for his mother. Eventually his mother does awaken but with Alex being given the warning that her next heart attack will probably be fatal. In order to avoid the great shock of the collapse of their old way of life Alex takes it upon himself to hide the German reunification from his mother. Now this is the central conceit to the film and Brühl's performance is essential to not making it feel ridiculous. Brühl makes it work by portraying Alex's devotion to his mother's health so honestly. Although he is lying to her Brühl's delivers these initial lies with only the utmost warmth, and gentle regard always emphasizing that Alex believes this is the only way to save his mother.
The film then proceeds to reveal Alex's strange game where he takes many unorthodox methods to present everything that his mother sees as still being part of the old Germany. Brühl brings the right energy to the performance as he pulls you right into Alex's mission by making it such a sympathetic prospect. Brühl makes these such engaging scenes though because he reveals everything that comes with them. He has those moments where he is so endearing and encouraging in portraying this ingenuity in Alex as he tirelessly finds ways to create and refine the illusion. Brühl is never one note though in that even when he's in the process itself he does reflect the sort physical effort needed, as with each successive scene Brühl conveys Alex just wearing himself out a bit from it all. Furthermore though he also brings the real frustrations in his arguments with his sister over the illusion as he delivers his counters with that conviction that alludes to his motivation, even while it becomes harder and harder to keep it up his illusion. Meanwhile though I love those moments he has where Alex sees his mother happy, and Brühl so powerfully reaffirms that underlying motivation every time by presenting just the most genuine love towards his mother and happiness at seeing that she is still with him.
Although his mother's world is crafted by Alex, Alex's own existence is not a constant outside of it. Now one positive aspect of this is in his relationship with Lara to where Brühl makes for a great low key romantic lead. These scenes are pretty modest yet offers the right sweetness to them, though with just the right reservations at times in the persistent argument over Alex's treatment for his mother. Another problem though appears in the form of Alex and Ariane's father who they can now technically reconnect with, as he disappeared to the west when they were children. Brühl has a great scene where he goes to see his father, who has started a new family. In the scene Alex's dialogue is fairly sparse but Brühl's eyes though say it all as they reflect the years of feeling abandoned. He presents this as a sorrow but not anger though suggesting Alex's willingness to potentially forgive the past particularly so that he can bring his father back to see his mother one last time. That moment though is simply the natural state of this wonderful performance by Daniel Brühl as he makes Alex such a likable but also believable lead. He's charming yes but he also offers the right convictions to allow the central conceit to work. He makes you empathize with the young man's plight throughout the film. It's terrific performance and I have to say I hope we'll be able to see this side of Brühl again sometime in the future.