Life’s inconsistencies is the lesson in Tonio, the title character (Chris Peters) embodying that philosophy. Being young, he’s the kind of guy who would drastically change his career path every six months. This frustrates his father, author Adri van der Heijden (Pierre Bokma), who wants his son to be successful.
Tonio never gets to choose a path because of an accident that kills him. Paula van der Oest’s adapts these true events that the real van der Heijden wrote in a novel, showing the different ways he dealt with Tonio’s untimely death. It occasionally gets ugly as he starts an uncontrollable drinking habit.
The unabashed depiction of those drinking scenes separate this film from other ones where parents lose their child. Before those scenes came, it was hard to see whether it would, as it fumbles its, sticks its landing. Its cinematography in depicting the present day scenes feel so obvious and grey.
Despite this visual choice, the film makes up by reminding audiences that melodramas are capable of having twists. Adri and his wife Mirjam Rotenstreich (Rifka Lodeizen) try to recount his last moments, focusing on a young woman, Jenny (Stefanie van Leersum), who they think is Tonio’s only true love.
That sentimentality almost destroys the film but thankfully, Bokma and Lodeizen sell those scenes. That’s especially true for Bokma who, through his research, starts retracing Tonio’s steps and actually sees him. He reminds us of the empathy we as audiences might lose in seeing a story that’s alarmingly common.
There are also scenes where they Adri and Mirjam to encounter Jenny and the people in Tonio’s life. Here, van der Heijden also exposes the secret lives that young people inadvertently hide from their parents. Which make the parents more curious, showing the connections that people yearn for.