Writer: Felix Herngren, Hans Ingemansson, Jonas Jonasson (book)
Cast: Robert Gustafsson, Iwar Wiklander, Alan Ford
Running time: 114mins
The lowdown: One of the year’s biggest surprise, this Swedish Forrest Gump is a hoot from beginning to end. Robert Gustafsson delivers a knockout performance as Allan Karlsson, a sprightly centenarian and explosives expert who absconds from his drab care home. His subsequent adventures involve a like-minded OAP free spirit, mobsters, skinheads, a missing fortune, a love sick eternal student and an elephant. Flashbacks reveal Allan to be a central player on the 20th century stage, from the Spanish Civil to the Manhattan Project to Stalin’s Russia and beyond. Silly, smart and hilarious, with a generous dash of indomitable human spirit spicing the brew.
The full verdict: Packing plot twists the Coen Bros would consider a bit much The 100-Year-Old Man… skewers a century of European history. Continent wide dementia repeatedly strikes as one oppressive regime follows another, from revolutionary Russia to modern day crime lords, with no-one spotting the pattern.
Some may balk at the irreverent approach to German eugenics, Russian gulags and the atom bomb, but there is optimism to the idea that bad guys will always be undone by comic indifference, a sense of community… and the rear end of a giant elephant.
Director Herngren mounts Jonas Jonasson’s bestselling novel with epic ambition, moving from pastoral, orange-hued childhood scenes to steely blue spy movie grit when the hapless, spaced-out hero unwittingly stumbles into the Cold War.
Anchoring the wild absurdism, often below several layers of latex, is the hilarious Gustafsson, observing 20th century folly with incurious detachment. And there is a joy in seeing him goading to fury Alan Ford, cameo’ing as a foul-mouthed Kray gangster boss.
Forrest Gump meets Weekend at Bernie’s in Swedish, while there’s plenty of killing here belly laughs replace chunky knit jumpers and an irresistible glow burns away the chill.