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  • 15
  • Comedy, Drama
  • 2014
  • 114 mins

The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window And Disappeared

Film4 100 Year Old Man

Synopsis

Centenarian Allan Karlsson (Robert Gustafsson) elects to avoid a dull 100th birthday party by escaping his retirement home and seeking adventures like those he had in his youth.

Review

Jonas Jonasson's 2009 Swedish novel The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window And Disappeared shifted over three million copies even before it was translated into English. With that figure now closer to six million, the filmed adaptation was practically all but inevitable, and happily it's as much sweet, breezy fun as its source material, if a little lacking in the novel's subtext.

The two timelines of Allan's (Robert Gustafsson) story - his past and present - unfold alternately. His Bilbo Baggins-esque escape from his own dreaded birthday party kicks off a road trip which involves a suitcase of stolen loot belonging to a cockney gangster (Alan Ford, never afraid to be typecast), a gang of inept thugs in lukewarm pursuit and a heavy emphasis on the importance of friendship. Meanwhile, Allan's mad past is revealed in flashback: bimbling through the twentieth century like a Swedish Forrest Gump, he collides with an array of historical and fictional figures, boozing with the likes of Franco and Stalin and inadvertently inventing the atomic bomb.

It's a shaggy dog story of Digby: The Biggest Dog In The World proportions, and is guaranteed to please for as long as it's in front of your face. Allan's globe-trotting backstory, populated by revolutionaries, fascists and presidents, is warmly and wittily told, and his propensity for blowing stuff up makes for some darkly hilarious moments (fox lovers should probably plan to arrive five minutes after the film starts). The present-day storyline is a little less successful, if only because it's hard to see how it relates to the story of Allan's life that we're being told concurrently. It's entertaining enough, but after the credits roll it's the fable of the past you'll remember over the farce of the present.

As fun as Allan's ridiculous story is, that's really all there is on offer. "One thing certainly leads to another," he intones in his matter-of-fact voiceover, and that seems to be the limit of the film’s narrative ambition. While the novel had something to say about not underestimating the elderly and the difference between growing old and growing up, the film seems content to merely recount the events of Allan's life, squandering the chance to provide some welcome substance.

Cast & Connections

  • Actor: Iwar Wiklander, David Wiberg, Mia Skäringer, Robert Gustafsson
  • Director: Felix Herngren
  • Writer: Jonas Jonasson, Felix Herngren, Hans Ingemansson
  • Producer: Malte Forssell, Henrik Jansson-Schweizer, Felix Herngren, Patrick Nebout
  • Photographer: Göran Hallberg

In a nutshell

Funny, farcical but ultimately forgettable, this is an amusing romp through history in the company of an unlikely, elderly hero. Leave your false teeth at the door though; there's not much to chew on here.

by Neil Alcock

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