Toni Erdmann is that rare thing: a film that makes you laugh and cry, wince and twist in your seat all at once.
Toni Erdmann is that rare thing: a film that makes you laugh and cry, wince and twist in your seat all at once. Rather than a comedy by definition, it’s a subtle drama with slow-burning humour , winding up to the punch with care and pathos that renders the punchline all the more poignant. But even more than that, Toni Erdmann is about a father who refuses to do what’s expected of him, and a daughter whose drive to be nothing like him has driven her to the verge of hysterics.
Ines (Sandra Hüller) leads a solitary life, immersing herself in work and concealing her insecurities with a cool exterior. She’s lonely and so is her father Winfried (Peter Simoneschek), who lives alone, separated from his wife and has just buried his much-loved dog. In a desperate attempt to reconnect with his daughter he creates an alter ego , complete with grotesque teeth and an unconvincing wig, and the film takes a great effort in following him on his mission to re-build their relationship. Yet, it’s not only Winfried who mounts an offensive, instead father and daughter both share an ability to make up outlandish stories about each other: she invents a whole new wife for him, he jokes about having a substitute daughter because ‘the cakes are better’, but with every knock each is making serious points about the other.
In many ways, Toni Ermann is a tragedy as much as it is a comedy and it’s down to Maren Ade’s fine direction that the film never loses its balance. There’s a great deal of wisdom to be found amongst the satiere, and a great deal of heart — although Ade stringently avoids any hint of sentimentality. The result is breath-taking, and often hilarious.
Watch the trailer: