Growing old is a matter which affects every one of us. There appears to be a nagging fear in a large part of the population that aging will result in losing touch with society and becoming more irrelevant. Finish film, The Grump, showing at this year’s Glasgow Film Festival, takes a look at the subject from a slightly different angle. What if you don’t want to feel relevant in the first place?
Antti Litja stars in the title role which is based on a series of novels by Tuomas Kyrö. As an old man living alone in the house he built for his family decades ago, he is set in his ways. Everyone else have moved on to their own lives and he appears to be content working the land and living his own life. After an accident in the house, the old man is forced to seek medical help. The only place to get the special help he needs is in the city so he ends up staying with his son and daughter in law. His son spends a lot of time away so the old man is compelled to spend time with Minia (Mari Perankoski). She is a property developer who is about to conduct a very important meeting with prospective clients from Russia and has to take the old man along so she can keep an eye on him. The Grump’s presence during the meeting highlights the generational differences between him, Mania and just about everyone else.
On the face of it the character of The Grump seems to be two dimensional. There seems to be little in the way of subtlety in his manner. It is just on closer inspection that the true personality is revealed. He had not always been the way he is now. In a series of voice overs and flash backs, we get to see just how he ended up as the grumpy old man. A lot of has to do with his single mindedness which he admits has caused him no end of problems. He recalls that when he spoke out and voiced a strong opinion it usually ends badly for him. For all the stubbornness with him he doesn’t see himself a stuck in his ways. He has grown to accept himself as he is. Once he finds something that he likes he sees no need to change it. To others, this is seen as not moving with the times.
In recent interviews, Director, Dome Karukoski has stated that when writing the screenplay the main character took on a lot of characteristics of his own father. This serves to add a level of realism to the film and the portrayal. The Finnish veteran actor Antti Litja uses this base to create a memorable and multi-layered performance. You can see in his eyes that below the gruff exterior there is a man with plenty of troubles. The audience is handed an initial impression based on his appearance and manner only for that to be chipped away during the film, revealing the true man underneath.
The other principal character, Minia, sees the grump as the audience does. He does himself no favours by using phrases like Young Missus when talking to her. She wants to help but gets very frustrated by his words and actions. Mari Perankoski plays the role very well and moves between emotions towards her father in law and her husband who appears to be taking on some of the old man’s mannerisms. When it gets too much she gets frighteningly angry and you fear for what she may be capable of. As her husband states, she can get ‘Margaret Thatcher angry’
Thee is a rich vein of humour running through the film. Mostly it is in the verbal exchanges between the old man and whoever he is disagreeing with. There are also a couple of outstanding scenes where sight gags which border on slapstick. They are well staged with a good payoff for the audience.
Overall, an interestingly diverse take on the aging process which mixes humour and drama to good effect. Recommended.