A good friend bought me this Blu-Ray for my birthday a few years ago. He has pestered me since about watching this. I am not telling him that I have seen it, meaning that unless he checks my Letterboxd account the first time he’ll realize that I’ve finally seen Toni Erdmann is when this post goes up nearly seven months after the fact. I guess there really are numerous benefits to having a long lead in time to these posts going up.
Usually when there is a film about a father trying to connect with a child that he is disconnected to, I approach it with a degree of reluctance. Somehow, Toni Erdmann managed to completely disarm me and find a safe vantage for me to enjoy what it has to offer. In the end, this is not a film about an absent father trying to make up with his daughter – more a father somewhat overstepping the boundary because he fears that his daughter has forgotten how to be happy after wrapping herself up in a stressful and pretty awful job.
So often you get a comedy film about a parent and child that works because it comes from a heightened place. With Toni Erdmann, the film is approached from a more realistic and humanist angle where there are outlandish things that occur – but somehow it makes sense in a world grounded in reality. The best example of this is the culmination of a long build up and may be the funniest moment in a nude scene that has ever been on the big screen.
These aren’t just characters, both Ines the daughter and Winfried the father feel like fully fleshed out human beings. Winfried as a person is ridiculous and, as we see from the first scene with a delivery man, enjoys a good prank but never does it from a bad place. The title of the film comes from such a prank where he (whilst poorly disguised) manages to infiltrate his way into his daughter’s work life as a pretty piss poor life coach – the fact that we never see him doing this and it remains a constant threat is probably for the best.
At nearly 3 hours long, Toni Erdmann really does take its time. There are sections where you do feel it a bit, but there are others where you are consistently laughing for a long enough time that you don’t really notice it. There are enough of these funny sections that really balance it out, but thankfully watching it on a Blu Ray did allow for a bathroom break… which makes me glad I didn’t end up seeing it in the cinema.