Film Review: Toni Erdmann


In association with Glasgow Film Theatre

British film magazine Sight & Sound polled 163 film critics from around the world at the end of 2016 to find the consensus on what the best film of the year was. It was not award darlings like La La Land, Moonlight, or Manchester by the Sea, but the German comedy-drama Toni Erdmann. Rightly so – it is the most reliable of the bunch, a heartfelt father and daughter story of finding a connection and common ground between two different lives from two different generations.

Winfried Conradi and his daughter Ines could not be more different. He is a retired music teacher, a hippy-esque figure with shaggy hair and a penchant for japes, while she is a professional consultant who is aggressively devoted to her career-focused lifestyle. After the death of his dog, Winfried wants to bond with his daughter who works in Bucharest. Even when she visits home her mind is still back at work, constantly on the phone and unable to switch off.

After being shut out from initial attempts to spend time with his daughter, Winfried creates an alter ego called Toni Erdmann. Wearing a wig and false teeth, he creates a whole persona and interacts with many of Ines’s friends and colleagues. She is a professional and great at her job, but Winfried has the people skills making him and his persona instantly likable.

Both leads are fully fleshed out characters. It is obvious they would struggle to connect in the modern world, and themes of modernisation, gender roles, class, capitalism, and generation divides all contribute to the conversation Winfried and Ines are silently having. Winfried’s kindhearted spirit from a previous generation is at odds with Ines’s lack of empathy essential for her modern way of living. Ines is powerful and in control of her life, even if that life could be better.

But Winfried’s Erdmann spurs something in Ines as a push and pull role play ensues, with Ines becoming swept up in the fun while stressing about her consultant job. Absurdity follows, but always with an authenticity that makes Toni Erdmann feels like a real life story.

It is timely in its setting but timeless in its message and appeal. It is a father and daughter story with a focus on humour, but sadness too. Rapturous scenes, heavy silences, and genuine belly laughs – Toni Erdmann is deserving of all the praise it has received.

[Scott Wilson – @HeartofFire]

The film will be screened at Glasgow Film Theatre from the 3rd until the 15th of February. Tickets available here. Like and share this review to get the chance to win exclusive Toni Erdmann t-shirts.

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