Stars: Peter Simonischek, Sandra Hüller, Lucy Russell, John Keogh, Hadewych Minis, Ingrid Bisu, Trystan Pütter, Vlad Ivanov, Alexandru Papadopol, Michael Wittenborn, Radu Banzaru, Victoria Malektorovych, Ingrid Burkhard, Thomas Loibl.
Director: Maren Ade
Screenplay: Maren Ade
As Ines (Sandra Hüller) eloquently states, "Happiness" is a strong word when discussing life. This film struggles with this expectation from familial, cultural, societal, and personal angles. But rather than blatantly investigating the idea of happiness it instead meshes out a world of norms that might as well be broken in order to seek an understanding of the complexities of that word.
We live in a world of expectations; have a good challenging job, raise and spend time with your family, enjoy small talk at business events (and make sure you have your business cards for networking), and generally have your life together. We all usually work well within these frameworks and can hide our contentedness behind well practiced smiles. We live within these boundaries because its easier than not, it's not to say we don't enjoy these boundaries but it usually rarely crosses our minds to even second guess them.
So what happens if we fiddle with the linings of these boundaries, dip a toe outside of the status quo; surely there is not much harm to question things every one and a while? In so many ways this is what this film does which analyses social etiquette and politeness. We as a group like to make things as comfortable as possible and sometimes that means politely nodding along with someone who is clearly not abiding by our social rules. Toni Erdmann plays with this, and while nothing too extreme happens its a refreshing examination of just how strict and comfort level really is.
This has to be one of the most entertaining watches in recent years, the film had a length of around 3 hours and while you feel it it never feels long. Peter Simonischek and Hüller have the most fascinating chemistry that I have seen on film; they play off each other in such elegant ways, they both shine within a scene with neither one taking the lime light. I feel this great connection to their characters as we follow their life and watch them live in their own little bubble that bursts other people's comfort zones. Maren Ade has written and filmed one of the truest pieces of cinema that proves that there are new things to expect from this medium. Love, like the work Happiness is a strong word but I am going to use it when talking about Toni Erdmann.