Toni Erdmann is triumphant in its use of socially uncomfortable situations to pursue a relaxed and less serious take on life. The film follows uptight and determined business woman, Ines Conradi, played by Sandra Hüller, and her jester father, Winifred, a.k.a Toni Erdmann, played by Peter Simonischek. Their characters could not be more polar when it comes to self-confidence in terms of social acceptance. In other words, he doesn’t care what people think about him and she is obsessed with self-image and self-preservation. Ines is making a name for herself as a consultant in the oil industry in Bucharest, Romania. Winifred is a teacher in Germany who spontaneously decides to visit his daughter after the death of his dog. Her somber and humorless demeanor mixed with her fierce determination to move up in her company puts her in a highly stressful state throughout the movie. This, coupled with her father’s outrageous and eccentric persona that is embellished by his live-in-the-moment attitude and absence of shame, makes him push his daughter to her limits.
The back and forth between Ines and Winifred is creatively funny and witty. Ade created a story line that follows the growth between father and daughter both through their interaction with one another and in the way they interact with everyone around them. In the beginning of the film they are more like business partners than kin. This is also reflected in the way that Ines treats her father in public. As the relationship develops and they begin to reconnect they start to adopt each others’ perspectives on social interaction. They find neutral ground from their polar beginning.
Toni Erdmann has an ever-present awkward and uncomfortable nature that forces both his daughter, Ines, and the viewer to embrace the unexpected, and sometimes zany, events in life. There is no need to take life so serious all the time. Every once in awhile you need to step out of your shell and try something new and push yourself to be uncomfortable. If you don’t push yourself to be uncomfortable and out of your element then it is difficult to grow.
Maren Ade’s creation of the screenplay and execution of the film as the director was spectacular. Ade’s success was acknowledged with 5 European Film Awards, making her the first female to earn that achievement.
Directed by: Maren Ade
Cinematography: Patrick Orth
Screenplay by: Maren Ade
Starring: Sandra Hüller, Peter Simonischek, Michael Wittenborn, and Thomas Loibl
Runtime: 2h 42m
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Distributed by: NFP Marketing & Distribution, Filmladen, Thunderbird Releasing