IFF Review: Toni Erdmann (2016)


Insightful and hilarious in equal measure, Toni Erdmann – a bittersweet German comedy that dazzled at Cannes – is the real deal. Maren Ade, who last directed Everyone Else in 2009, strikes a masterful tonal balance in which to examine the uneasy relationship between workaholic Ines (Sandra Hüller) and her lonely father Winfried (Peter Simonischek), who comes to visit her in Bucharest after the death of his dog. Upon arrival, he’s sidelined as she can’t tear herself away from work, so he invents an alter ego – “Toni Erdmann”, complete with wig and false teeth – as a way of spending time with her. Though there’s nothing startling about the setup, the course the narrative takes offers up a plethora of surprises, not to mention one stand-out set piece involving an impromptu naked birthday party. But what’s most clever is that, while extremely funny, there’s also a sweetness and emotion that’s subtly intertwined into the script by Ade and so well played by both Simonischek and Hüller. It’s admittedly not for everyone (the run time alone will turn some people off), but those willing to take a chance will likely be pleased they did.

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