Film review: The 100-Year-Old Man

The 100 year old man who climbed out of the window and disappeared. Picture: Contributed
The 100 year old man who climbed out of the window and disappeared. Picture: Contributed
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JUST as Scotland isn’t known for its beachwear, Sweden isn’t renowned for its comedy, unless Surströmming, a fermented tinned fish that has to be opened in the open air and sends polecats reeling in disbelief, turns out to be a sly Swedish joke on the rest of the world.

The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window And Disappeared (15)

Directed by: Felix Herngren

Running time: 114 minutes

Star rating: ****

If you are as rude and ignorant as me, then The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window And Disappeared will come as a delightful surprise, a Scandic Forrest Gump yarn based on Jonas Jonasson’s book.

On his 100th birthday, Allan Karlsson (Robert Gustafsson), an explosives expert and vodka connoisseur, decides to escape his nursing home and head for the bus station after realising he’s not the retiring type. Impulsively, he steals a suitcase from a bellicose ned, unaware that it is full of drug money, causing a violent if slow-witted gang to set out to hunt him down.

From here, the story alternates between a present-day chase that involves a perplexed perpetual student, a genial small-town soak, a buxom moll and an elephant, and Allan’s past, where he appears to have been present at key moments of world history. In particular, his knack for blowing up stuff draws the attention of Franco, Stalin, Kim Il-sung and Robert Oppenheimer. Want to know about a controlled detonation? Allan is your man. Want a big bang? Bring a bottle. Want to see veteran British actor Alan Ford swear in English at his incompetent Swedish subordinates? That pleasure awaits you too.

Despite accidentally telling the Americans and the Russians how to create the atomic bomb, Allan is neither villain nor hero and he views the world with a certain autistic detachment.

Both older and younger versions are played by Gustafsson, apparently Sweden’s funniest man, although we’ve already established that in some quarters that billing sounds as beguiling as Scotland’s sunniest month. In any case, Allan is not supposed to be in on any of the film’s jokes, and Gustaffson has a nicely distracted manner, and resists any urge to drive home gags with sledgehammer emphasis. Robin Williams and Jim Carrey, we are looking at you.

Rarely overwhelmed by his circumstances, no matter how elevated or desperate, he treats world leaders as equals, learns Russian in a gulag, takes Einstein’s stupid brother under his wing and constantly evades near-death situations by the skin of his teeth.

At this time of year, when films are either gigantic, nine-figure epics or indie pictures on a shoestring, a mid-level movie has a theoretical allure. Coincidence and absurdity drive this latter-day Candide’s amusing, episodic misadventures and the satirical look back at international relations in the 20th century is lightly handled. This is not a substantial film but it has scope and a point – pretty rare at this time in the summer calendar when most distributors appear to look at the World Cup and Wimbledon line-up, pack their swimming trunks, and go on holiday, The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window And Disappeared offers some light, charming comedy, delivered with sauna-wit. It may even be improved by a judicious shot of vodka beforehand.

On general release from Friday

Mrs Brown’s Boys D’Movie (15)

Star rating: **

Having never seen either the stage show or the sitcom, I came fresh to Brendan O’Carroll’s Mrs Brown movie, although “fresh” is not a word that readily comes to mind when viewing a clothesline on which hang some pretty soggy old jokes and tired stereotypes.

O’Carroll’s cross-dressed Irish mammy and blunderbuss innuendo is the stuff of sweary panto, pushed along by a barely-there plot about Agnes’ market stall being closed down by property developers. Her fightback spirals into a farcical 90 minutes of blarney, involving the extended Brown family, attacks on snooty receptionists, a troupe of sightless trainee Ninjas, discomfited priests, a barrister with Tourette’s syndrome and much mugging from O’Carroll (below).

Some of this is amusing – I liked the way the movie blends its blooper reels into the body of the film, rather than waiting till the credits at the end, and the sniggers during the retakes suggests that at least the cast are having fun. Eventually, however, the relentlessly puerile tone turns punishing. So many jokes crash and burn here that you’d swear the script was dictated straight to a black-box recorder.

Still, you have to hand it to him: Carroll has figured out a way to make millions and employ most of his family and friends in what amounts to an exhausted redux of Dick Emery’s less memorable moments. Never has the cast of Are You Being Served? holidaying on the Costa Plonka seemed so appealing.

On general release

The Man Whose Mind Exploded (15)

Star rating: ****

Seventy-year-old Drako Zarhazar was a friend of Salvador Dali, travelled the world and took a lot of drugs, but he can remember almost nothing of his life after a couple of accidents left him with almost no short or mid-term memory. Yet he manages to lead a trusting and fondly regarded life in Brighton as a heavily tattooed, shaven-headed eccentric. Documentary maker Toby Amies finds out more about the parts of Zarhazar’s life he can recall – and how he copes with the bits he doesn’t.

Cameo, Edinburgh, Tuesday

The Anomaly (15)

Star rating: **

Yet another of director-actor Noel Clarke’s misconceived vehicles; this time science-fiction takes a pummelling, with Clarke as a customised cyber-soldier who can only experience consciousness in ten-minute bursts. The plotting is so convoluted that this might be regarded as a merciful release for his audience. As an actor Clarke is likeable, but his film is derivative, distracted and desperately in need of a better denouement. Also starring Alexis Knapp.

On general release

Bicycling With Molière (15)

Star rating: ***

A popular TV star (Lambert Wilson) recruits a retired actor pal (Fabrice Luchini) to help him rehearse a stage version of the 17th century comedy of manners The Misanthrope by Molière.

Written and directed by Philippe Le Guay, who did the equally fine The Women On The 6th Floor, the film cheekily nicks the French dramatist’s themes, but really it’s a movie about luvvyish sniping and self-absorption. Luchini is a cranky Molière geek who doesn’t much care for people, Wilson is a cosseted narcissist, typecast by his hit medical drama, and together they argue, cycle and draw in other characters including an attractive divorcee (Maya Sansa) and a local porn star (Laurie Bordesoules).

It’s not a profound film, but the hamathon between old and new thespian styles is nicely observed, if forgettable.

Selected release: Filmhouse, Edinburgh, Friday to 10 July; Belmont, Aberdeen, 18-24 July

Twitter @SiobhanSynnot