Maren Ade’s exploration of a strange father-daughter relationship has been almost universally hailed as one of the best films of the century by critics. It’s been nominated all over the place for awards. Yet it doesn’t win everywhere it’s nominated, and I suppose that’s because it is something of an acquired taste.
Both the direction and the two lead performances (Sandra Hüller and Peter Simonischek) are brave and strong, and this is not like many films you will see.
The premise is that Winfried, following the death of his beloved dog, pays his hard-working, under-pressure daughter Ines a spontaneous visit, dropping in unexpectedly to her workplace in Bucharest. He tries to bring some levity to her life in his own strange way, but she finds his presence intrusive at a point where she is hoping to close an important business deal.
How much you settle in to the film’s tone I guess depends a lot on how tolerant you are of practical jokes. I’m not, in fact I detest them, and so I struggled to get along with the father. The daughter finds his behaviour embarrassing to start with, but as he wears her down, she sometimes even plays along with him – to an extent she has inherited his sense of humour as well and it’s when we see some of the bizarre things she ends up doing herself that we recognise the depth of feeling the characters have for each other.
I wasn’t as in love with this as many have been, but I can appreciate its success in exploring a rather unusual father-daughter dynamic. I did laugh out loud, but not all the way through as it’s not *that* kind of comedy.