The Grump


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

The Grump
"Litja... gives his character a sincerity and clarity of purpose that keeps us with him even when situations become ridiculous."

Change is difficult. That's the first thing the Grump (Antti Litja) tells us, and although it's a sentiment often derided in the elderly, his feelings should really be quite understandable to viewers of any age. He loves his home, which he built with his own hands. He loves his work as a farmer. He loves his wife, whom he still cares for and feeds by hand even though she has severe dementia and lives in a care home, unaware of who he is. He isn't really grumpy about any of these things - he's just miserable that a leg injury forces him to go and stay in Helsinki with his daughter-in-law and face a world with which he is completely unfamiliar.

Based on a series of Finnish radio plays, The Grump is essentially a culture clash comedy focused on the clash between past and present. A loose narrative holds together a string of sketches which often feel contrived, but don't let this put you off, because the whole is much more enjoyable than you might expect. This is largely down to Litja, who gives his character a sincerity and clarity of purpose that keeps us with him even when situations become ridiculous, even when he's causing acute distress to those around him. Because we can believe in the Grump, it's possible to be patient with the clumsier aspects of the comedy and enjoy the parts that are delivered well.

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Good supporting performances help to humanise other characters based on stereotypes. The daughter-in-law is fiercely driven when it comes to her career, but she has to be - she's providing for her husband and three children. Said husband is weak in the Grump's eyes, and perhaps in those of the viewer, but there's a tenderness between the couple that is revealed in touches and glances, telling us they have something that works. Or at least, something that did work, before the Grump arrived.

Mixing well-aged gags with modern technique, director Karukoski also effortlessly switches style depending on the setting and which characters are in the foreground. Long, slow shots of the countryside allow us to relax into a pastoral romance; in the urban scenes there is harsher light, there are more frequent cuts. We slip into archive footage as the Grump reminisces. To him, those were the good old days, but what we see looks like propaganda reels. To who is he trying to sell these ideas? Is he, at heart, aware of where they have failed him?

Well-crafted light entertainment with more going on below the surface than most of its ilk, The Grump may be old fashioned but it's a pleasant little film which will have some viewers laughing out loud.

Reviewed on: 08 Feb 2015
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After a fall, a curmudgeonly farmer moves into the city home of his frustrated daughter in law.
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Director: Dome Karukoski

Writer: Dome Karukoski, Tuomas Kyrö, Pekko Pesonen, based on the novel by Tuomas Kyrö

Starring: Antti Litja, Petra Frey, Mari Perankoski

Year: 2014

Runtime: 104 minutes

Country: Finland


Glasgow 2015

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