Toni Erdmann. 2016. Germany. Directed by Maren Ade. In German; English subtitles. 162 min.
“The third feature film by German director Maren Ade (The Forest for the Trees, Everyone Else) is an almost unbearably intense comedy that was one of the most talked-about films at this year's Cannes Film Festival. Winfried (Peter Simonischek) is a retired piano teacher, a divorcee who delights in persistent pranks and impersonations that alienate (and occasionally alarm) everyone in his German suburb. He hasn't been much for staying in touch with his daughter, Ines (Sandra Hüller), a high-ranking management consultant in Bucharest who is as controlled and rigid as her father is impish. Ines also possesses finely tuned radar for the nuances of social interaction—a trait that serves her well in the corporate world but only intensifies her discomfort when Winfried pays a surprise visit. One can easily imagine this premise turning into a tale of redemption in which estranged relations heal old wounds—and the film certainly does explore the peculiar interdependency that can only arise between family members—but in Ade's hands, it becomes something wholly original and altogether more affecting. An instant classic of embarrassment comedy (it has an excruciating ‘team-building exercise’ to rival anything in The Office), Toni Erdmann takes its time in drawing us closer and closer to its beautifully conceived characters, and we're with it every captivating step of the way” (Toronto Film Festival). Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.