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The Grump (Kaffee mit Milch und Stress, Mielensäpahoittaja) ****

“The good old days”, that is exactly what the protagonist is longing for in Karukoski’s film, The Grump. The Grump (Litja) is an eightyish former potato farmer living alone on the outskirts of Helsinki. In yesteryears, The Grump (we never learn his true name) reminisces that the men took care of the farm and car while the women looked after the house and children. Men were made of steel, skis out of wood and one never had debts. When The Grump falls and has to spend a few days with his daughter-in-law, Liisa (Perankoski), and later with his estranged son, Hessu (Forss), in Helsinki, he finds that this modern world has turned his own world upside down. The women earn the money and even drive the car; the men take care of the house and children and do what their wives tell them to do.

These age-old themes, the conflict of the generations plus the contrast of farm and city life, are a perfect backdrop for this heartwarming comedy. Karukoski artistically reflects the relaxed, slow pace of rural life with a wide, long take of the countryside and the hectic of the city with harsher light and more cuts. The Grump and his family do a wonderfully chaotic job of highlighting the clash between past and present. Especially, Litja, with his clarity of purpose, holds our attention throughout the movie. You love him because he always wants to “help”, you laugh at his clumsiness in the city but you feel irritation when he insists that only his way is right. Through flashbacks using archive footage, we gradually perceive that not all was better in “the good old days”. Is it possible that The Grump could still learn something from his offspring and they from him?

The Grump is a delightful comedy although occasionally too slow moving in the beginning scenes with Liisa and sometimes a bit ridiculous when Liisa picks up her Russian clients, whom she wants to impress. In summary, Litja is the one who captures our hearts, ties all episodes together and makes this film definitely worth a visit. By the way, The Grump and his family might just happen to remind you of people you know—maybe even of yourself. (Karen Schollemann)

  • Finland 2014
  • Opening December 21, 2017
  • Directed by: Dome Karukoski
  • Writing credits: Tuomas Kyrö, Dome Karukoski
  • Principal actors: Antti Litja, Mari Perankoski, Iikka Forss

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