He has lost a sense of propriety. She has misplaced her feeling for life. Together, they make an explosive combination in Maren Ade’s Toni Erdmann. The German movie is the kind of cringe comedy that raises uncomfortable chuckles but soon begins to trigger the tear ducts.

Available on MUBI, Toni Erdmann is a brilliant two-hander between Peter Simonischek as a prank-loving father and Sandra Huller as his stiff-backed daughter. Winfried is a bear of a man who walks around with false teeth in his pocket that he frequently puts on to lighten the mood. His relationship with his daughter Ines has reached a familiar stage of uncomfortable silences and business-like hugs.

When Winfried lands up at Ines’s workplace in Bucharest and adopts the persona of “Life coach Toni Erdmann”, Ines is horrified. A corporate striver who cares deeply about what others think of her, Ines is especially upset that Winfried doesn’t seem concerned about her professional success.

Ade’s film clocks in at 162 minutes, but doesn’t feel one bit long. The length is needed to allow scene to breathe, the actors to fully inhabit their characters and Ade to feel her way to the aching sadness that underpins the wacky humour.

The Greatest Love of All features in a seriocomic scene, with the song’s lyrics chiming perfectly with Ade’s astute screenplay. The cringe element is at its peak in an extended sequence revolving around Ines’s spontaneous decision to shed her inhibitions.

Hollywood was supposed to have remade Toni Erdmann, with Jack Nicholson and Kristen Wiig. How would an American studio have dealt with this raw, candid, hilarious, uncomfortable and revealing moment, in which Ines finally understands her father?

The remake has reportedly been indefinitely stalled. What a relief.

Toni Erdmann (2016).

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