The hype is real.
2 and a half hours goes by in a minute, and at one point, I spontaneously broke out in applause and had to check myself. There is a set-piece near the end, in particular, that had me coughing and gasping for air from laughing so much.
But what gives Maren Ade’s film staying power beyond its hilarity is the profound sense of melancholy hanging over the whole enterprise. This is primarily a film about disappointment and communicative breakdowns. Neither Ines or her father Winifred are fulfilled by their jobs or their relationships. She, a woman in a male-dominated workplace that seems to actively trying to leave her behind. He, an aged piano teacher whose only friend is a blind dog and whose friends seem to tolerate him, at best. In each other, perhaps, they see hope for understanding and support. Despite how much they try, however, they can’t help but continue to disappoint each other. Even at the end, when its arguable that both parties have learned something, have changed in ways potentially for the better, there is still a chasm between them, an acknowledged divide that may never be crossed – maybe it was too late for him to try to raise her, too late for her to change course to a less encompassing career, too late for their minds to bend.
During a late-film detour to the Romanian countryside, Winifred tells an impoverished local to never lose his humour. Ines tells him that was an extremely bitter thing to say. And they’re both right, because that statement means two completely different things to them. They can try to find the middle ground, searching their shared memories for a happy time to cross, but they will never be the person the other actively wishes them to be, and therefore can never truly understand each other.