A Man Called Ove
2015 | Comedy (and some drama) | In Swedish with English subtitles | 116 minutes
Ove Lindahl lives in a Swedish townhouse neighborhood. He’s had three recent emotional setbacks: he was deposed of his chairmanship of the neighborhood association, six months ago he lost his beloved wife, Sonja, and after 43 years working in a factory, he was forced to retire. He decides that suicide is his only option. He doesn’t succeed. Once, when he tried, he was interrupted by his next door neighbors, the Swedish Patrik and his pregnant Iranian wife Parvaneh. Ove has become a cantankerous man scolding his neighbors for disobeying neighborhood rules. He becomes a pain-in-the neck to everyone. He breaks off a friendship with his friend Rune over an argument when Ove claims that the Saab is a better car than the Volvo. One day, Ove collapses and is taken to the hospital. He lists Parvaneh as his next of kin. And, coincidentally, in the next room, Parvaneh gives birth. Ove seems touched and happy as Parvaneh’s young daughters refer to him as “grandpa.”
Why Stream This Film?
- Rotten Tomatoes Score (Critics Consensus): 90%
- Metacritic Score: 70
Academy Wards: Nominated, Best Foreign Film
European Film Awards: Best European Comedy; Best Actor (Rolf Lassgard)
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Writer/director Hannes Holm tweaks expectations with the way he presents the material, and his grip on the film’s tricky, tragicomic tone is masterful. As Ove, Lassgard gives one of the year’s best performances. He’s well supported by the other actors, but this is a rich, complex performance that is both funny and moving. It would have been easy to just let Ove coast by on his amusing grouchiness, but Lassgard lets us see so deeply under that protective exterior. We feel as if we’ve walked a mile in Ove’s shoes and absorbed his catharsis as our own.
A MAN CALLED OVE is a crisp, pleasing film adaptation of Fredrik Backman’s best-seller out of Sweden. The picture is a smooth, methodical black comedy. There’s a stubborn dignity in Ove’s crabby defense mechanisms. But when he learns to live without them, be warned: hearts will warm and tears may fall.
A MAN CALLED OVE manages to fuse melodrama with dark comedy and—no small feat—make it work. Ove is destined to learn that he can’t do it all on his own and that life is still worth living. Yet the moving twists and turns of the love story and the bright comedy elevate an otherwise familiar story line.
Director Hannes Holm’s adaptation of Backman’s bestselling novel, is wonderfully made, anchored by a charmingly misanthropic performance by Rolf Lassgard. Lassgard manages to keep us from completely hating and giving up on him at the beginning of the film—no small trick—and allows us to care for him without engaging in maudlin sentimentality at the end.
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