Directed by Felix Herngren
Written by Felix Herngren, Hans Ingemansson from Jonas Jonasson
Starring Robert Gustafsson, Iwar Wiklander, David Wiberg
Dynamite expert Allan Karlsson’s life, and the unlikely events following his escape from the old folk’s home on his 100th birthday.
As Allan Karlsson is about to celebrate his centenary, he takes it upon himself to climb out of the window of his room in the nursing home in which he resides and wander off. Climbing out of the window, whilst being unlikely in itself at this ripe old age, is the least surprising thing about this charming and often very funny story, the debut novel from Swedish writer Jonas Jonasson, adapted for the screen here by writer/director Felix Herngren and Hans Ingemansson.
What follows is a Forrest Gump style meander through Allan’s past and an eye-opening view of his present. Stumbling onto the nearest bus, he travels as far as his current limited budget allows, to the sleepy backwater of Byringe, keen to be anywhere apart from where he currently finds himself. Here his adventure into the unknown will begin. Through happenstance, he ends up taking a suitcase with him that he is told to hold onto by a man at the bus station, which proves in part, to be one of the main driving forces of the narrative.
Predominantly through bewildered misadventure, Allan (and his quickly expanding circle of hangers-on) meets new people and befriends the majority. This story of his life outside of the confines of the nursing home is regularly interspersed with a potted life history, when the good-natured, affable and mostly clueless Allan finds himself, much like Forrest, present at some of the twentieth centuries most notable moments. The part he plays in these moments vary in importance, but coincidence it seems is not only inevitable eventually, but almost as likely to be funny too.
The suitcase provides its own, rather more predatory, timeline and accompanying story. Upon inspection, it seems that there is good reason for some very bad people to want this suitcase back and in true bumbling criminal form, there are laughs to be had here too, not least involving an elephant and a cargo container headed for foreign shores. There is so much going on, in fact, that is sometimes becomes a struggle to keep up with and this could easily have been adapted into something much larger, as when then local law enforcement get involved, the audience really do start to have their hands full.
And if there is one failing, then it may be that whilst all of these characters, both good and bad, are engaging, they all require and deserve a little more depth. Not easy when there is so much going on, however. The direction is first class and the performances equally so, with an often very amusing, darkly comic, script underpinning all of the layers.
Overall, a hugely enjoyable project which bears some close resemblance to the novel (I’m told), which probably does the story more justice than the running time is able to here. Nonetheless, this is charming and quirky, though rarely sweet, in the extreme with the stand out performance from Robert Gustafsson, who at a trifling forty-six years old when the film was made, does a fantastic job at making us believe he is more than twice that age. Thumbs up also then for the make-up department. Great stuff.