If you reached the age of 100, could you look back on your life and reminisce on all the crazy adventures you’ve had? Allan Karlsson most definitely can. He’s the central character of The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared, a surprisingly enjoyable dark comedy out of Sweden based on the international bestselling novel of the same name by Jonas Jonasson. (I personally have not read the book, as I didn’t want it to have influence over my review of the movie.)
Allan has had a full life, mostly centered around his enjoyment of blowing up things. This passion gets him into trouble, beginning early on in childhood up until near the end of his life, but he also makes a career out of it. At the start of the movie Allan discovers his beloved cat, Molotov, has been killed by a fox, and he soon gets his revenge on the fox by blowing it up with some dynamite (did I mention this was a dark comedy?). Unfortunately for Allan, this action gets him placed in a nursing home to live out the rest of his days. While the staff is preparing a celebration for his 100th birthday, Allan decides he wants no part of his own party and proceeds to climb out the window of his room and just starts walking away. He walks to the nearest bus station, and gets a ticket to wherever the amount of change in his pocket will take him.
From there, a new madcap adventure begins as he encounters thugs and a suitcase full of money, makes new friends, and even an elephant joins in on the journey. At this point in his life he has nothing left to lose, as he tells one of bad guys who threatens him with death…
“If you want to kill me, you’d better hurry, because I’m 100 years old.”
Meanwhile during this new adventure, Allan narrates the story of his life for the audience, and through flashbacks we see the events that lead him up to the present time. Orphaned at an early age, he heads through life with no plan of what he wants to do, but instead he lets life determine what path to take for him. This includes both the good and the bad, but Allan takes it all in with no judgment or regrets. As long as he can blow up things and enjoy vodka then he’s good, and this journey takes him through significant events of the century and encounters with famous figures such as Franco, Stalin, and Harry Truman.
While the film has its dark comedic moments, overall it’s very over-the-top and just genuinely funny. Robert Gustaffson, the actor who plays Allan, does a great job playing this character as the straight man amongst the all zaniness around him. The audience I was with just laughed hysterically throughout the whole movie, and I was laughing pretty hard myself.
Several audience members afterward remarked that Allan reminded them of a “Swedish Forrest Gump“, and it’s easy to make the comparison.
In one sense both are fictional people who unintentionally have influence on major world events, but in another sense the two are completely different in character and personality. However, the film also reminded me of The Grand Budapest Hotel in its absurdity, and I think The 100-Year-Old Man does a better job of it. It’s a comedy well worth seeking out, and I most certainly will be seeking out the book.
Personal Theory: I have a feeling that since Allan is officially 100 years old, he thoroughly enjoys the film R100 and it’s now his favorite movie ever.