I hear the book’s really good. In fact, Jonas Jonasson’s The 100-Year Old Man Who Climbed Out Of The Window And Disappeared is something of a phenomenon, earning rave reviews and selling lots of copies. And it starts, as the film does, with its title. Allan Karlsson is 100 years old. He’s spending his birthday sat in an old people’s home, surrounded by fuss that he doesn’t really want. So he elects to climb out of the window, and begin a quite incredible life adventure.
In fact, as we learn throughout the story, he’s already lived many life adventures, meaning we get to spend time with current Allan and past Allan, with the story jumping between the two. The film casts Robert Gustafsson in the title role, and he captures the mischief and coincidence that lies at the centre of Karlsson’s story. At first glance, it’s a bit Forrest Gump, as we discover that Karlsson and his love of explosives brought him into contact with some major figures throughout history. Yet there seems something a bit sinister here, with hints – mainly unexplored – of someone less pleasant bubbling under the surface. Karlsson, as we learn through the film, is an intelligent man, yet it seems that we’re guided towards believing he did certain things just because he happened to be there. It never fully rings true.
Mapped around the film is a recurring subplot about a suitcase full of cash, that belongs to some gangsters. Heading up those gangsters? That’d be the always terrific value Alan Ford. There’s an argument that he’s been wired in from another film, but big screen Alan Ford is a real treat, and inevitably enough, he steals what he’s allowed near.
As a film, The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out Of The Window And Disappeared – and if we were paid by the word, we’d be dropping the name of the film with alarming regularity – works best when it’s on lighter ground (although that does jar a little with some of the turns it takes), and Gustafsson elicits several good, solid laughs. His deadpan innocence is impressive.
Credit too to director Felix Herngren – who also adapted the script, alongside Hans Ingemansson and Jonasson himself – for keeping things moving, and playing with the less predictable elements of the story.
And yet as a whole, it feels as though it just doesn’t come together as convincingly as it should. Jumping backwards and forwards in time, and with generous doses of whimsy, there’s not enough glue to hold the threads together. On the page, it may have mattered less, where the structure of a novel can give more to play with. On screen, The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out Of The Window And Disappeared is an entertaining, gentle, occasionally dark piece of cinema. But it’s rarely a great one.
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