Toni Erdmann

Dir and Screenplay: Maren Ade. Cast: Sandra Huller, Peter Simonischek.

Germany, 162 mins.

Sandra Huller as Ines, a smart but lonely thirty-something corporate strategist working in Romania, and Winfried, her one-time hippy now retired-teacher father, star in this weird but brilliant German tragi-comedy.

Ines’s coldness reflects the hollowness at the heart of the corporate culture that is her life – her working life, as she doesn’t seem to have any other kind. Her father Winfried, a prankster of old, pays her a surprise visit in Bucharest, and tries to jolt her into some kind of life and warmth by disguising himself in wig and crazy teeth and passing himself off as a life coach.

Some of the film (including a sex scene between Ines and one of her colleagues) is so bleak you can hardly bare to watch it and some of it is so hysterically funny that my friend S and I had to wipe away tears of laughter. Some of it, or rather most of it, that is, when ‘Toni Erdmann’ is in his wig and teeth, is just weird. But weird in an extraordinarily watchable way.

I don’t usually care for films that run much over the 2-hour convention (Abel Gance’s Napoleon excepted). This one runs for two and three-quarter hours, and I was gripped by every minute.