A stubbornly traditional eighty-year-old farmer — whose social attitudes verge on the prehistoric — raises hell when he is forced to move in with his sadsack, city-dwelling son and domineering daughter-in-law, in this hilarious social satire based on the wildly popular novel by Finnish author Tuomas Kyrö.
Contemporary World Cinema
Based on Tuomas Kyrö's popular novel, Dome Karukoski's The Grump juxtaposes the rural values of yesterday's Finland with the country's contemporary urban reality, with alternately hilarious and touching results. The eponymous, unnamed hero (played by legendary Finnish actor Antti Litja) is an eighty-year-old farmer who, following a domestic accident, must come to Helsinki and stay with his youngest son, an unemployed New Age sad sack, and his Type A businesswoman daughter-in-law.
From the outset, the new houseguest is hell on wheels. His social attitudes are, at best, prehistoric: he's terrified of change and is generally averse to displaying any emotions save rage and frustration; he freaks out when he's served by a young black woman at a coffee shop; and he's flummoxed by his daughter-in-law's lavender-scented bathroom. (Lavender, he insists, was used to poison soldiers in the trenches.) Nevertheless, his generosity, dogged independence, and slow-food work ethic contrast vividly, and favourably, with the trendy attitudes and self-absorbed behaviour of those around him — and despite his gruff manner, it soon becomes apparent that the Grump is harbouring painful secrets that he is loath to address.
While this scenario could easily lend itself to Archie Bunker/Norman Lear-style bromides, Karukoski deftly sidesteps this potential pitfall by making his hero both unbearable and sympathetic, satirizing his prejudices and narrow-mindedness while lauding his honesty and validating his frustration with and resistance to modern times. In adapting a book many thought couldn't be brought to the screen, Karukoski has created an up-to-the-minute piece of social satire and further established himself as one of today's most versatile and inventive filmmakers.