Toni Erdmann, 2016 - ★★★½
I’m at a slight loss to know what to say about this film. I enjoyed it throughout, laughed a lot at various places, but it really is profoundly odd.
I think I had assumed that the British had the monopoly on the ‘comedy of cringe’, where the comedy arises out of massive social awkwardness, but on the evidence of this (German) film, German directors (in this case, Maren Ade) can be pretty excellent at it too.
Winfried worries about his workaholic daughter Ines, and - partly to spend more time with her - just shows up where she works and starts playing slightly childish pranks in order to get her to have more fun. I found myself almost watching some scenes through my hands because the social awkwardness levels were so stratospheric. This is completely deliberate on the part of the director Maren Ade, but it’s just toe-curling if you are sensitive to that kind of thing. However, there are also lovely moments of tenderness, and humour, and some sharp commentary on inhuman corporate culture.
I ended up thinking it was a really good and well-made film, but not loving it, if that makes sense.
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