Director: Hannes Holm
Starring: Rolf Lassgård, Bahar Pars & Filip Berg
Synopsis: Ove, an ill-tempered, isolated retiree who spends his days enforcing block association rules and visiting his wife’s grave, has finally given up on life just as an unlikely friendship develops with his boisterous new neighbors.
Rating: 15 Duration: 111 minutes Release date: 16 October (UK)
Sometimes a film comes along and takes you completely by surprise, and A Man Called Ove is one such film. This sweet, blackly comic Swedish drama about a cantankerous old fart who is literally at the end of his tether is both heart-warming & funny and will win you over much like Ove himself does.
After his wife; Sonja, passes away Ove receives further bad news when he is let go by the railway company that he has worked at for 43 years. Deciding he has had enough of life, Ove attempts suicide on several occasions, only to be let down a faulty rope and intrusive neighbours. Setting its stall out early, A Man Called Ove is not prepared to hold back on the desire for this lonely man to end his life, but once his new neighbours arrive with their two young children, Ove begins to reassess his life. There are some similarities here to other recent Hollywood efforts that have taken the grumpy old man routine and turned it into a marketable idea. Bill Murray, Jack Nicholson and Clint Eastwood have all had various attempts with films like Broken Flowers, As Good as it Gets and Gran Torino. A Man Called Ove seems sufficiently sure of itself to take some inspiration from these films, but has cut its own route and allows for some darkly comic moments which filter through the lighter points in the film.
Ove (Rolf Lassgård) is a wonderfully enjoyable character to watch. His grouchy routine is delightful to watch and one can sympathise, as you get older, how much the little things bother you. Ove lives in a blocked off accommodation and takes it most personally when someone breaks the sites rules or questions his judgement. He is continually calling people idiots and ending up in wild confrontations with people who don’t lock a gate properly or drive through the no car zone, and heaven forbid if anyone drive a car that is not a Saab. Ove is very much set in his ways and with the loss of both his wife and his life-long job now gone, his earnestness to pick tiny faults is more heightened than ever before.
Once Ove’s new neighbours arrive, the film takes a turn, as does Ove’s life in general. Having been distracted too many times in his efforts to kill himself, Ove takes a shine to pregnant Parvaneh (Bahar Pars) after she cooks him one of her home-made meals. Parvaneh and her children, as well as her half-wit husband, give Ove a new purpose in life. It’s a charming turn of events, as we see the darkness filter out of Ove’s life and he begins to embrace things with more vigour. He gets back into his old routine of helping people with selfless abandon and starts to honour his wife’s name, who too was a popular figure in the community before her untimely passing.
The film is punctuated by two very different performances of Ove. One is his current older, much more crabby self. The other is a younger more personable man who loved his wife and would help anyone when he could. Filip Berg is tasked with giving a performance as the younger Ove and has the challenge of showing us how he became the man he did. We see his relationship with his father, how he took on his father’s job at the railway under brutal circumstances and how his all important relationship with Sonja (Ida Engvoll) blossomed. Berg has charm and holds his own, but he is not as endearing an Ove as the older Lassgård is. Sonja does little apart from look beautiful in each scene, it’s not her fault though as she is given relatively little to do. It is Bahar Pars who nearly steals the show as Ove’s joyful and life embracing new neighbour. Her Parvaneh is the light to Ove’s darkness and provides many of the films better moments.
While some may feel that films like this have been done before, and arguably done better, you cannot deny the way in which A Man Called Ove sucks you into its world. The laughs aren’t huge, but they are constant and the transformation of Ove, while predictable, is a pleasure to see unfold. There are no points for originality here, but A Man Called Ove will win you over with its giant heart and charming performances.
- The Ove in us All
- Q&A at Scandinavia House NYC
- Make up gallery & time-lapse