Writer: Maren Ade
DOP: Patrick Orth
Cast: Peter Simonischek, Sandra Hüller
A practical joking father tries to reconnect with his hard working daughter by creating an outrageous alter-ego and posing as her CEO's life coach.
I went into the film with knowledge that it is a comedy film and, hate to bring in a stereotype, but German films are not known for their comedy. The recent Hitler film 'Look who's back' ended up as very poignant towards the end even though it was supposed to be a laugh out loud comedy film. Toni Erdmann is is in the category of cringe comedy like the TV series 'The Office'. The drama is on an equal footing with the comedy here or even more prominent and it is a slow burner. The film starts from the perspective of the father but as it progresses we realize that it is the story of his careerist daughter who is leading a sad lonely life in Bucharest (Or is it Budapest). She is a consultant who is primarily in the business of advocating outsourcing and retrenchment of workforce. She calls her father a man living in the 70s with a green agenda. In the beginning of the film, we find Toni to be very intrusive and the daughter puts up with it but as his behavior becomes even more outrageous she starts losing her shit. But by the end she kind of accepts him as the pain of her sad lonely life takes over and she begins to let go a bit. There is a sequence of her singing in the film and it is the kind that you watch with hands partially covering your face.
It is a great watch overall but is not recommended for everyone. Cringe comedy can be a hard watch for many especially if it is as dark like this. The film is almost three hours long. Toni's character is loosely based on director's own father. The film was nominated for academy awards in the best foreign film category and also was in the running for Palme d'Or at Cannes.