Harvie is born Harvek Milos Krumpetzki in Poland in 1922. He's an odd little fellow afflicted with Tourette's syndrome. His illiterate mother attempts to school him, giving him a lifelong appreciation of "fakts". When Those Wacky Nazis roll into Poland, Harvie flees, emigrating to Australia and Anglicizing his name to "Harvie Krumpet." Life continues to buffet him with bad luck—he loses a testicle, he needs a plate in his head, he gets struck by lightning—but Harvie keeps soldiering on. He gets married, raises a daughter, and discovers the joy in living.
Narrated by Geoffrey Rush.
- Artistic License History: The film has Harvie's parents dying in 1942 and the Germans invading shortly thereafter, when the Germans actually invaded in 1939. Either way, their deaths were quick and merciful compared to what the Nazis would have done to them
- Bleak Abyss Retirement Home: The staff doesn't appear to be abusive but it's still a melancholy place. The Alzheimer's patients have a habit of wandering out and waiting at the bus stop to visit long-dead relatives, so the staff builds a fake bus stop on the grounds, which is partially Truth in Television for patients with mental disorders, as it's considered better to let them hold their delusion rather than burst their bubble on a daily basis.
- Busby Berkeley Number: Harvie watches them on TV!
- Carpe Diem: Harvie is having one of his more depressed moments when a statue of the philosopher Horace speaks to him, telling him to "seize the day...carpe diem." Harvie does, starting to do all sorts of madcap things like joining a nudist colony and joining an animal rights guerilla group.
- Do Not Go Gentle: Harvie is about to kill himself with a morphine overdose in the old folks' home when a talk with a fellow patient makes him realizes he has "a lot of living left to do." So he takes off his clothes like the nudist he is, and goes outside to sit at the fake bus stop. The final "fakt" then pops up on screen:"Life is like a cigarette. Smoke it to the butt."
- Everybody Smokes: They did in the 1940s, which is why Harvie's doctor, with an ashtray full of cigarettes, tells him to smoke more to soothe the lungs. Harvie's doctor dies of emphysema.
- Hollywood Tourette's: Actually, Harvie's Tourette's Syndrome is portrayed realistically, as a compulsion to touch objects with his index finger and to touch people he meets on the nose.
- Kids Are Cruel: The kids at Harvie's school throw rocks at Harvie and his similarly weird friend, causing Harvie's mom to withdraw him.
- Naked People Are Funny:
- Narrator: Rush provides droll, low-key narration of the vagaries of Harvie's life.
- Random Events Plot: Weird stuff just happens to Harvie—he develops Tourette's, his parents burn their house down and freeze to death, he gets struck by lightning, he loses a testicle, he adopts a thalidomide baby. While Harvie is something of a Pinball Protagonist, the real point is his determination to carry on in the face of obstacles.
- Shout-Out to Shakespeare: Starts with a quote from Twelfth Night—"Some are born great, some achieve greatness, some have greatness thrust upon 'em", then says "but others...."
- Spinning Paper: Harvie's oddball life inspires some Spinning Paper newspaper headlines.
- "RETARDED MIGRANT SURVIVES LIGHTNING STRIKE"
- "RETARDED MIGRANT BECOMES HUMAN MAGNET"