28/02/17, Toni Erdmann
I've noticed a pattern that it's more difficult to write about a good film than a flawed one. Be it a 'bad' film I liked despite its flaws, like Underworld: Blood Wars, or a film that's just plain shit, as was the case with John Wick 2, they're fun to write about, like a dream that doesn't make sense. Should I only go and watch – or more importantly, review – the films that I fear?
It's a problem I'm facing now with reviewing Toni Erdmann, a poignant, award-winning German comedy that had me and the audience laughing throughout, when it wasn't being thoughtful or melancholic. It's about a mega-serious business daughter who lives for her work, her phone permanently on. She reminded me a bit of myself when I used to be a middle-manager at the British Council, but worse, because at least my job was education-related, and kind-of laudable. The daughter in this film, however, is working for one of the big American consultancies that are looking to downsize a Romanian company by reducing its oil-based workforce. In one of the film's most memorable scenes, the daughter visits the oil field while her tourist father looks for somewhere to piss. The father is welcomed by a dirt-poor family into their shack, and as he leaves them, they give him as a gift a small bag of apples, the only thing they could probably afford. It's heart-breaking, the more so as you realize the earnest, scrawny fifty-something man with thick glasses who invited the father into the shack, offering the apples – a father too – could be one of the many ones laid off.
The story, meanwhile, is about the daughter and her slobbish practical-joker father trying to reconnect. He squeezes himself into her business world by visiting her in a series of disguises, as a grotesque, tasteless rich man, a bit like Donald Trump, but scruffier, and with better jokes
Overall, of course I'd recommend this film, and I'm grateful for the comedic element because a film that highlights the financial and social inequalities of the world, as Toni Erdmann gently does in the background, should let some light in somehow. I missed I, Daniel Blake deliberately – a film about people on the lowest rung, being denied welfare benefits – I don't need to be told that a vote for the Conservatives is a vote for the rich. It always has been. Perhaps because I have no money or property of my own, I'm more inclined to stick to the script in this respect, and say 'I'd never vote Tory.' But to go 'off-script' as regards my cinema review, I will add that I have no idea why anyone who isn't rich would vote for a political establishment that clearly has the welfare of the rich at its heart, and is anxiously cutting down on the facilities for everyone else.And with this thought, I am reminded of the value of continuing to see the 'good' films that are made, for the mirror they hold up to the world I live in, a world I sometimes try too hard to close my eyes and ears to.