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A Man Called Ove – Film Review

A Man Called Ove – Film Review by Frank L.

 Director: Hannes Holm
Writers: Hannes Holm (screenplay), Fredrik Backman (novel)
Stars: Rolf Lassgård, Bahar Pars, Filip Berg
The film is based on the novel of the same name by Fredrik Backman with Holm writing the screenplay. The eponymous hero, Ove, (Rolf Lassgård) is an elderly widower living in a housing complex where there are many rules which are observed in the breach by the other inhabitants. In an offensive manner, he points out to his neighbours their failings. However, he finds solace in his daily visit to his wife’s grave where he pours out to her the various slights and irritations of the previous day. He longs to be with her. He attempts suicide. He attempts it several times but is always frustrated by one of his irritating neighbours or something goes wrong. The skill of Holm is that he manages to bring a muted black humour into these scenes.

His favourite term for anyone who displeases him is “idiot”. He uses it liberally for a new Swedish neighbour whose pregnant wife Parvaneh (Bahar Pars) is Iranian. They have two kids who are needless to say a trial to Ove. However notwithstanding Ove’s bloody mindedness she treats him as needing friendship. She persists, regardless of his off handedness or even straight forward rudeness, but even he has to adjust a little to her generosity of spirit. His poor relationships with other neighbours are detailed including one where his obsessiveness about the Saab motor company leads him to conduct a war of attrition against a neighbour who is a Volvo fan. Holm mines a rich seam of comedy into this unlikely war. What unites the various incidents is Ove’s consistently bad behaviour. Yet somehow he is a character, in his loneliness, who engenders a feeling of sympathy.

As he often is in solitary contemplation, Holm uses the time in flashbacks, with two different actors playing Ove, to reflect on his childhood which was not easy and the good and less good times he experienced with his vivacious and out-going wife Sonja (Ida Engvoll). Ove undoubtedly chose well when he married Sonja.

The quality of the direction by Holm and the powerful presence of Lassgård and the fine supporting roles by Pars and Engvoll make this film a joy to watch. That is some achievement as the anti-hero is a lonely sixty year old curmudgeon who is at war with the world. It rightly was shortlisted for the best foreign film in this year’s Oscars.  It is an unlikely gem and not to be missed.

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