A Man Called Ove, 2015.
Directed by Hannes Holm.
Starring Rolf Lassgard, Bahar Pars, Filip Berg, Ida Engvoll, and Tobias Elmborg.
Ove lives alone on a small housing development that he tries to rule with an iron fist. At 59, he’s lost his job and his role as chair of the residents’ committee – but carries on ruling the roost just the same. His ordered life is disrupted by the arrival of new neighbours, a friendly young family who, inevitably, bring noise and their own brand of chaos. It’s the start of a gradual change.
We’ve all met Ove. The grumpy git who lives by the rules and expects – nay, demands – everybody does the same. Who spends an inordinate amount of time making official complaints about trivia. And who doesn’t seem to like anything or anybody. That loaded question “do you enjoy life?” comes to mind.
In Ove’s (Rolf Lassgard) case, he doesn’t. His beloved wife is dead and the only thing he wants now is to be with her. At 59, he looks and behaves like somebody significantly older, permanently sees the negative side of everything and is a creature of habit, making his rounds at the same time eveyr morning to check the gated development where he lives. At what for him is a most inconvenient moment, he discovers he has new neighbours, the pregnant Parvaneh (Bahar Pars), her husband and two young girls. They’re friendly but, like any young family, slightly chaotic and far noisier than he would like.
But, in Hannes Holm’s A Man Called Ove, there’s more going on beneath that crusty surface. His life has had more than its fair share of sadness: his mother dies when he’s a child and his father is killed in a tragic accident when Ove is a young man. Happiness comes with his one and only relationship with a woman, Sonja (Ida Engvoll), who becomes his wife and the focus of his life. There’s more personal tragedy to come and the interior of his house is scattered with clues: Sonja’s clothes, a wheelchair in the corner ……
Essentially, his life is the story, with an emphasis on the present day and the changes that come with his new neighbours. It would be all too easy for the film to turn maudlin and sentimental, but Holm, who also wrote the screenplay, injects proceedings with a large dose of black comedy, irony and a razor-sharp sense of timing. Ove’s various efforts to fulfil a promise to his beloved Sonja are always thwarted by other people, although they never realise at the time. But the fact that the curmudgeon is still around means that he touches the lives of others, even finding himself saving a life. It’s the ultimate irony, and there’s a definite hint of It’s a Wonderful Life in seeing how he affects those around him, often unexpectedly.
While his life is changed by his new neighbours, this is no radical transformation. He’s always been pedantic, awkward in company and a glass half empty kinda guy. That never changes. But he does come to realise that he needs other people, in the same way that they need him. Those morning rounds continue, he’s still complaining and calling everybody “idiots” but the difference is that he also calls himself one as well. Holm skilfully balances the feel-good with the downright funny, the touching with the tragic. And the biggest irony of all is that, underneath, Ove has a big heart. Literally.
Ove and Parvanah make an unlikely double act but, as played by Lassgard and Pars, they’re extremely effective. He only smiles once – encouraged by his neighbour – but, as the film progresses, he demonstrates that there’s more to him than a grumpy face and a manner designed to keep the world at arm’s length. But he can’t keep Parvaneh at arm’s length. At the start, Ove gets right up your nose but, by the end, he’s really got to you. Tissues at the ready …….
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★