Cinema: ‘Funniest film I’ve seen’

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Comedy comes in many shapes and sizes and what is funny to one person may well not be to another.

However, occasionally a comedy film comes along that can cross-boundaries and bring people together with public displays of reaction seldom seen at other film genres. These gems of wit and hilarity are few and far between in the independent film sector, and even rarer when it comes to the select European films that are lucky enough to gain distribution in the UK.

I haven’t ever laughed that much during a film in my life

So, it may come as a surprise that the funniest film of this year, and for me, of a lifetime, is released this week and it also happens to be German.

Toni Erdmann finds humour in something that most people can identify with – embarrassing parents. Either as a child walking five paces behind, head down, exuding detachment; an adult struggling to renegotiate the relationship; or as a parent realising your embarrassing traits and potentially embracing them – this situation will surely strike a chord with many of us.

Father and daughter, Winfried and Ines are poles apart. They live distant detached lives and when Winfried decides to remedy the situation, he approaches it in the best way he knows how, in comedy disguise.

Ines is, of course, shocked and she is also far from amused at her father’s intrusion into her high-pressure business executive lifestyle. She is determined, serious and rather uptight andwho has perhaps ended up this way in response to her zany father’s influence. Despite the obscure occurrences that take place in this wonderful tale of familial frustration, joke shop props, absurd outfits and cringe-worthy encounters, at its core this film is about acceptance.

It’s about learning to accept your roots, your family, their needs and life choices and finding that sometimes you can just laugh at it all.

Winning prizes across Europe, Maren Ade’s film has absolutely stellar timing and brilliant performances from Sandra Huller and Peter Simonischek.

When it premiered at Cannes Film Festival in 2016, audiences were laughing so loudly that sometimes the film was almost drowned out. I was barely able to contain my joy and haven’t ever laughed that much during a film in my life.

As Toni Erdmann is now up for a much-deserved Oscar, I can only hope that it is awarded and that a new wave of European comedy is formed. Perhaps the language of humour can go some way to bring people together in times of trouble.