It's this tension, between separation and dependence, which is at the core of Maren Ade's offbeat new outing Toni Erdmann – a story of an eccentric father's sometimes calamitous attempts to reach out to his daughter following the expiration of his pet dog.
The father, Winifried (Peter Simonichek), is something of a jester, a man who enjoys taking on new identities with the aid of joke-shop quality false teeth and wigs. The opening scene sets the tone for the Winifired's humor as he opens the door to an unsuspecting postman, false-teeth in place, pretending to be his own twin brother and alluding to bombs in mail packages. This somewhat sociopathic brand of amusement is then taken to Bucharest in a risky attempt to bring some cheer to the life of daughter Ines (Sandra Huller), a high flying business consultant.
After an awkward dinner involving her corporate colleagues and clients in which Winifried sticks out like a sore thumb, Ines is understandably horrified when her father continues to appear like a bad penny in the guise of a business coach called Toni Erdmann. The plot then takes us through Ines' struggle to accept him while she falters in achieving her career standards.
There are plenty of good laughs throughout on account of Winifired's quirky humour. But despite all the silliness there is a real thread of drama underneath the comedy. The threat of tragedy, that possibility the gulf between father and daughter is just too wide to bridge, is ever present.
Toni Erdmann is also a study on loneliness. Both father and daughter are isolated in their own ways: Winifried lives without companionship, and Ines is a career woman surrounded by slick-suited men. Yet each have their own ways of coping. Both comedy and career commitment are questioned as distractions from something more fulfilling.
While the psychology brings a significant depth to the story, the plot frustratingly seems to dissipate somewhat as time goes on, taking most of the tension with it. But, when the focus is there, Toni Erdmann is an incredibly engaging account of the inevitable complexities of parenthood.
|What||Toni Erdmann film review|
|Where||Various Locations | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Leicester Square (underground)|
03 Feb 17 – 03 Apr 17, Times vary
|Price||£determined by cinema|
|Website||Click here for more details|