There’s a level on which Maren Ade’s comedy sets up like a familiar American high-concept premise: the workaholic who learns What Really Matters. But there’s more than that twisting its way through the central relationship between Ines (Sandra Hüller), a Bucharest-based consultant, and her eccentric, practical joke-loving father Winfried (Peter Simonischek), who visits her while often disguised as his alter-ego, Toni Erdmann. Their relationship takes on a unique dynamic from the outset—Ines plays along to a surprising degree, and her frustration when it does manifest itself isn’t outsized outrage—as Ade refuses to make this a simplistic tale of the tight-ass who just needs to loosen up. Plenty of credit for that goes to Hüller, whose performance is beautifully restrained even in the movie’s two biggest comedic set pieces—including a dead-earnest karaoke performance of “The Greatest Love of All”—which easily could have been played over the top. It’s a surprisingly complex portrayal of a messy father-daughter relationship, one that’s funny and sweet and not easy to pin down, right up to and including the final shot, which adds another magnificent touch of melancholy.
Director: Maren Ade
Producer: Janine Jackowski, Maren Ade, Jonas Dornbach and Ben von Dobeneck
Cast: Peter Simonischek, Sandra Hüller, Michael Wittenborn, Thomas Loibl, Trystan Pütter, Hadewych Minis, Lucy Russell, Ingrid Bisu, Vlad Ivanov, Victoria Cocias, Radu Banzaru, Anna Bergold, Niels Bormann, Ingrid Burkhard, Manuela Ciucur, Cezara Dafinescu, Radu Dumitrache, Julischka Eichel, Klara Höfels, Calancea Irinel, Tadeusz Januszewski, John Keogh, Sava Lolov, Hans Löw, Jürg Löw, Victoria Malektorovych, Lennart Moho, Alexandru Papadopol, Ruth Reinecke, Ursula Renecke, Irene Rindje, Miriam Rizea, Hartmut Stanke, Luana Stoica, Nicolas Wackerbarth and Ingo Wimmer