On his 100th birthday, Allan (Robert Gustafsson) decides that he has had enough of living in a retirement home, climbs out of his window and disappears. When someone asks him to look after a suitcase, Allan absentmindedly takes it with him on his journey, leading to a police and biker gang searching for him, as he searches for one last adventure in life.
Based on Jonas Jonasson’s acclaimed novel of the same name, The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared feels a little like The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel mixed with Forrest Gump, with a little Ocean’s Eleven thrown in for good measure.
Swedish comedian Robert Gustafsson takes on the daunting task of playing Allan throughout his adult life, and in voiceover. The film flashes back to the extraordinary events that Allan lived through and contributed to, with Gustafsson playing the role for most of the film. The actor allows Allan to keep his sense of wonder and simplicity, without ever making him a simple or pitiable character. The rest of the cast – including a rather odd cameo from Alan Ford, who seems to be reprising his role as East End Thug in The Armando Ianucci Show – support and compliment Gustafsson and the story wonderfully, fleshing out the world and making Allan’s incredible journey believable.
As screenwriters, Felix Herngren and Hans Ingemansson make Allan and the world around him quirky and fun, and slightly outlandish, without ever having to rely on whimsy to keep the story moving. There are times when the story threatens to overwhelm the rather tragic central figure, but it is almost always reigned in on time, and the balance between tragedy and comedy is carefully observed. The story of the elderly man on the run blends well with the tale of the younger man in search of something in his life.
As director, Herngren allows the story to unfold gradually, letting the audience learn more about Allan as we need to, in order for the present day story to work. Placing Allan in history with Franco, Stalin, Reagan and Truman could have been a disaster, but the story carefully unfolds, so the audience can understand Allan’s peculiar form of luck. Of course, allowing the story to develop at its own pace also leads to some rather messy pacing, and the film slightly outstaying its welcome, fun even though it is.
The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared is an examination of a tragic life through a comedic lens. Robert Gustafsson makes Allan a warm and engaging character, and some careful direction from Herngren makes for a quirky and gentle story, even though it is often manic and over the top. However, messy pacing and a running time that is a shade too long mean that instead of leaving us wanting more, the film feels as though it is dragging its heels at times.