”Things are what they are, and whatever will be will be,” cautions readers of the Swedish novel by Jonas Jonassons.  With over 1.1 million copies sold in Sweden, and sales of more than six million copies worldwide, the tale has been adapted for the movies by screenwriter/director Felix Herngren.  

        It’s a mouthful of a title, but like “The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain,” “A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence,” and “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time,” there’s budding whimsy which arouses eyebrow-raising interest. The film, not fully rolled out in general release at this writing, bears an irreverent and frequently outrageous Swedish seriocomedy that quotes “Forrest Gump”.  The story is a time-spanning chronicle of a not-altogether-there centenarian whose exploits put him at the centre of world events.

        After a long and eventful life, Allan Karlsson ends up in

a nursing home, believing it to be his last stop. The only problem is that he’s still in good health, and that the days are getting

tedious. When the celebration of his 100th birthday approaches, which Allan isn’t interested in at all, he decides to escape his boring everyday life.  This feisty senior feels certain that his life’s adventures aren’t over quite yet. Flashbacks reveal him to have experienced far more than the average human. The cantankerous geriatric climbs out of a window at the retirement center, and in a series of events embarks on a hilarious and entirely unexpected journey. This involves Allan in the activies of a gang of criminals, murderers, a suitcase stuffed with cash, an elephant, and an incompetent policeman. It would be the adventure of a lifetime for anyone else, but to Allan it is just ordinary life.

        Not only has he witnessed some of the most important events of the twentieth century, he has actually played a key role in them. Although Allan is completely uninterested in politics and religion, he seems to have affected  most of the last century’s major world events. We also get to follow Allan’s previous escapades. How he, among other things helped to invent the atomic bomb, and became good friends with everyone from American presidents to Russian tyrants. For a hundred years Allan Karlsson did rattle the world, and now he’s on

the loose again.


The film balances slapstick and sentiment to the soundtrack rhythm of music one might hear at a carnival which defines Allans personality as he leaves a trail of disaster in his wake.  The humor stems from his oblivious behavior as he wends his way through his unlikely journey.

          With no other skills or interests, Allan’s aptitude for weaponry sets the course of his life, leading him into Franco’s service in Spain. Later, he helps the Americans working on the Manhattan Project solve whatever was stumping them on their atomic bomb tests (they’re worried about science, while Allan merely wants to see the big boom). More explosions await in the Soviet gulag, where he meets Albert Einstein’s relatively dimwitted brother, Herbert.  That’s only the start of his misadventures. It can be challenging at times to follow Allan’s world-traveling activities.  Half our attention, while focused on the present provides ample comedy contrasts with frequent interruptions for non-sequitur flashbacks to his youthAllan is the unlikeliest and least cool character one would imagine to experience such a roller-coaster trip, especially at this late stage in his life.  He’s essentially an overgrown kid. 

                The novel addresses the imagination while the film allows the viewer to be part and parcel of joining the old guy on his expedition through history. There is a great deal of fun in watching a 100-year-old man climb out a window and disappear.

        The film is currently showing in select markets. Look for its wide release across all platforms on home and mobile devices.

Written by: Alex Reynolds

John Best had enjoyed a lengthy media management career, in television and radio and now print. As Vice President, News at CHCH in Hamilton, John oversaw a significant expansion of the news operation. He founded Independent Satellite News, Canada’s only television news service providing national content to Canadian independent TV stations. John is a frequent political commentator on radio and television, a documentary producer and author of a book and numerous articles on historical and political subjects. John is a past recipient of the New York Festival’s award for writing in the International TV category.

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