The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared
This review first appeared in the Sunday Star-Times, 10th August 2014
Seriously?? What movie exec would approve so long-winded a film title?
Well, in this case, it’s justified. This is the wholly fitting cinematic rendering of the best-selling and multi-translated Swedish novel of the same name (don’t make me repeat it) by Jonas Jonasson. But whether you’ve read the book or not, the absurdist caper, as ludicrous as it gets, is guaranteed to delight and entertain you for a worthwhile two hours at the flicks.
The improbable, absolutely-not-true story begins with the titular centenarian, Allan Karlsson, doing exactly what it says on the poster – absconding from his rest home while his fellow residents prepare to celebrate his birthday. However, unlike the elderly fellow who recently did a runner in real life and took off to France to attend the D-Day commemorations, his fictional Swedish counterpart is simply looking for a change of scene. Allan trots into the village to buy a ticket on any bus out of there, where he encounters a frustrated skinhead and inadvertently kicks off an hilarious and oft-bloody chain of events.
Noticeable perhaps because the 100-year old Allan rather resembles F. Murray Abraham’s turn as Salieri, the narrative employs the Amadeusesque devices of an (English language) voiceover and the intercutting of Allan’s contemporary escapades with tales from his past life. Advised by his mother at a young age “Don’t think, just let life be what it is”, Allan evokes Forrest Gump as he unwittingly plays significant roles in all manner of world-changing events throughout history. The fact he’s a perennially naïve and unassuming player may annoy some viewers but it is also core to the film’s charm. Playing Allan at all ages is “Sweden’s funniest comedian” (apparently), Robert Gustafsson, and his likeability means we’re happy to trail along as Allan makes friends and influences people in veritable road-trip style.
The two lively stories – a crime caper in the present tense, Allan’s extraordinary backstory in the past – unfold in tandem, and it’s enormous fun. The comedy is black from the opening explosion through to its unexpected, laugh-out-loud conclusion. When Allan Karlsson climbed out of that window he had no idea of the adventure ahead, and neither will you.