Toni Erdmann is a light-hearted father-daughter bonding story. Selected for the official competition, German director Maren Ade’s film explores the relationship between absolute joker dad Winfried (Peter Simonischek) and his hard-working businesswoman daughter Ines (Sandra Hüller). Stressed to the guts by her life amidst white collar colleagues, her existence is thrown upside down with the arrival of the father, on a “spontaneous” visit. The two will have to develop their own kind of communication to heal each other.
Filmed in the fancy high-class world of Bucarest (but only hinting en passant to the social divide that persists in Romania), Toni Erdmann certainly has some delightful moments of biting comedy; it got the audience of the premiere screening, that loudly expressed their approval, but these mini-gems are set into a slightly too lengthy narration. The plot never evolves from the father-daughter dynamic, stopping for long pauses on descriptions about the corporate world and cocktail bars.
Demonstrative to the core, the picture never risks going too far in philosophising on existence, ultimately resolving all questions about the sense of life and happiness in a joke, just like the loveable parent would. On a whole, however, this family drama does get out of the usual lines, making it a noteworthy drama-comedy in its genre. Simonischek is nevertheless charming, whether in a ruffled wig or face-paint or fake teeth. With a few uproarious sequences and Winfried’s unstoppable humour, Ade manages to get us through the film’s 162 minutes leaving a positive sense. A more concentrated tale, selecting the key instants and skipping the long in-betweens, would perhaps have made the human analysis more intense and memorable.
Maren Ade’s Toni Erdmann is fun and pleasing, not failing to make the stuck-up businesswoman likeable and the childish father eventually very wise. Hopefully not too much of its warmth and tender farces get dissipated by its prolonged description.
Toni Erdmann does not have a UK release date yet.
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Watch the trailer for Toni Erdmann here: