The Greatest Love of All – ★★★★½
Going to see Maren Ade’s Oscar-nominated film Toni Erdmann is an experience. At two and three-quarter hours it’s quite a commitment for an absurdist, dramatic comedy but the amount of unforgettable moments and images makes it worth your while.
The film tells the story of a father (Winfried, played by Peter Simonischek) and daughter (Ines, played by Sandra Hüller) who have drifted apart as a result of her high-flying corporate lifestyle. The fix for this problem? Winfried Conradi dons a wig, chucks in some comical false teeth and takes on the persona of Toni Erdmann and tries to infiltrate his daughter’s life by posing as her boss’ life coach. Yep!
To give much more away about the plot would probably ruin it but to give a flavour of what is in store I would say look out for the costumes, the handcuffs, Whitney Houston (kind of), the nudity and the whoopee cushion. Somehow all these set-pieces all fit together into a very believable and engaging script with nothing feeling even a tiny bit contrived.
At the heart of the film is the dual performances of Simonischek and Hüller who expertly convey all the awkwardness and tension that develops between a parent and an adult child. Simonischek plays Winfried as the joker and is instantly adorable, but whether you’d like him as your wacky music teacher, or your father is the big question. Hüller as Ines is almost impossible to read for about two hours of the running time and then the cracks begin to show as she slowly starts to embrace her father’s outlook on life, and his absurd approach to social situations.
It’s hilarious, it’s emotional, it’s clever and it’s unlike anything else you will see in a cinema this year. Fingers crossed for that Oscar.
Released in Irish cinemas on February 3rd 2017