A daughter and father are somewhat estranged, living at a remove from one another. The father, Winfried, a teacher in his sixties, near retirement age, with a serious but puckish manner, decides to correct this. He begins traipsing around after Ines, working as a management consultant, who is on the cusp of forty, and in the throes of locking in a deal with an oil company client. It is not a simple story, and it takes its time presenting scenarios where Ines is constantly interrupted, sometimes to the point of being ashamed, by her father in a frightful wig and beastly false teeth.
Winfried lives alone with his dog; in fact you get the feeling that his relationship with his dog is the closest one he has. One of several very touching scenes features Winfried sleeping outdoors on the ground in order to be close to his pet when he is ailing. Winfried also checks in on his aging mother who seems unsurprised when he appears made up in a death mask with those bestial teeth. “You should put the dog down. You’re only making him suffer,” she says, to which he replies, “We don’t put you down either Mother.”
There are many witty lines of dialogue and scenes that you recognize from contemporary life. Ines is trying to win over her client by encouraging him to save money through outsourcing the labor. Globalization, sex instead of romance, women being dismissed as lesser, leered after, yet sent in to do others’ dirty work, all of these familiar modern dilemmas occur naturally in the course of the story.
Fathers and daughters have tight bonds. Manfried poses as Toni Erdmann, alternately a life coach, or ambassador. The oil executive loves what he says instantly even as he sneers and makes fun of the heartlessness of his daughter because he speaks the truth.
And so goes the movie which has some delightful sight gags, delicious dialogue, and genuine complexity of characters. I found it touching and thoughtful, a minor miracle of lucidity.
Bring on more Maren Ade!