100-year-old-manThe Swedish Answer to Forrest Gump, Hundred Year Old man centers on the life of Alan Karllson, a man who lives an extraordinary life, if not mostly by accident.  It is a little darker than the Tom Hanks classic, with the plot being driven by a bag of money that may as well bear the label of MacGuffen.  But it works because, as it becomes clear very quickly, it is not so much driven by the plot as it is the wonderful character of Alan.

As he and his friends take flight from a murderous biker gang trying to reclaim the money, we are presented with a series of flashbacks sprinkled into the timeline.  We see Alan’s mother’s on her death bed, imparting a lesson in over thinking “You sound like your father, always thinking for no reason.”  Alan than continues his life as an orphan with an inept ability to just go with the flow.  His love of explosives leads him to the Spanish Civil War, then to the Manhattan project, and then as a double agent during the Cold War.  As he witnesses major events unfold on the World’s Stage, Alan seems blissfully unaware of the consequences any of his actions may hold, and is more concerned with having a stiff drink.

In present day, as a 100 year old, his flight from the biker gang leads him to a group of new friends, including a full grown elephant, and reconnections with old ones.  As the biker gang and their assorted cohorts close in on him and his friends, he treats the potentially dire situation with the same aloofness.  “If you want to kill me you better hurry because I’m already 100 years old,” he warns a notorious gangster.

The film is woven together expertly by writer/director Felix Herngren based on the novel by Jonas Johannson.  Similar to how Alan lives his life, the director approached the story with equal parts quirk and heart; you got the feeling he was shooting the audience a wink and a smile at some parts.  This feeling was helped by the whimsical score and playful crash zooms.  I have seen few films where the style compliments the subject matter so well.  As Alan stumbles through world events, so too does the audience through the film, laughing all the while.  Maybe that is why it is so successful as an exercise in historical storytelling; it shines a mirror to some dark times during the past century and allows the audience to laugh at them.