What begins as a funny film from Finland about a grumpy old man from the country who must move to the city while his busted leg heals evolves into a self-examination of a lonely life that was full of mistakes. This lovable feature, which touches on the pain brought by Alzheimer’s, will make you laugh, cry, and think about your own life, no matter your age.
Why tell this story of a grumpy old man who hates the modern world?
My father passed away during the holidays. I made this film for him knowing he would be gone soon. I wanted to do one film he would love. When I read the books that the film is based upon, I could relate to them through my father. He was a great man, but the world changed around him in a rapid pace. It must’ve felt terrible. Suddenly everything is somewhere in “iCloud” or nothing works as it used.
Is that sentiment especially common in Finland?
My father lived in New York, The Grump lives in very rural Finland. Still they shared many traits. I think aging and especially the generational gap is universal. In its core, the film is about that. Understanding different generations and as it’s shown in the film, learning to understand your sons and daughter-in-laws. Of course, Finland is a very modern country and I believe the “modernization” is even faster there.
Is there a strong rivalry between Finns and Russians, as is explored early in the film?
The Soviet Union attacked Finland during the second World War. This is a dark memory for the older generation. Sometimes it’s difficult for them to understand that the younger generation is suddenly doing business with the old enemy.
The film has a tragic undertone, but is also a comedy?
Basically every good comedy has a strong story behind it. Otherwise it’s just surface. The Grump is about a lonely man seeking a place in the world. It’s about the loss of his love and realizing the mistakes you’ve made. In a way being in the mist until you confront those mistakes. I always start from the core story and I have to even cry when thinking it. And I just love to deal grim or serious subjects with laughter and a smile. Laughter relieves and heals — even the filmmaker.
How have people liked the film?
It’s been nominated for Best Film in the Finnish Film Awards and it’s also the number one film at the Finnish box Office last year, beating titles such as The Hobbit 3 and Interstellar. And the film premiere at Toronto Film Festival, which is of course a good head start.
Would you prefer living like he did in the country or in a nice place in the city?
I was raised in a village of 5,000 people and I now live in the Finnish capital Helsinki. Even though my home village is beautiful, I think my driving the tractor times are over.