A Man Called Ove

 

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Sweden's 59-year-old man is screen centre in this commercial comedy.

 

Man Called Ove, A

  

This Swedish film starts off pleasingly as a comedy about a grumpy old man. That's Ove (Rolf Lassgård) who fits that description even if he is still just short of sixty. He is a widower prickly with everybody and determined to challenge anybody who fails to observe the rules of the housing estate where he now lives alone. He pays regular visits to the grave of his wife, Sonja (Ida Engvoll), whom we will meet in frequent flashbacks alongside the young Ove (Filip Berg). Based on a novel by Fredrik Backman and written and directed by Hannes Holm, this is mainstream popular fare even it reaches us subtitled. There is a  touch of black comedy (anxious to rejoin his wife, Ove makes more than one thwarted attempt at suicide) but the cantankerous central character, acerbic yet for the audience engaging, is the kind of figure that the late Walter Matthau might have played and Lassgård does a great job. He may be said to anchor the film.

 

But, as it goes on, A Man Called Ove seeks to be more than a comedy. Its development covers Ove's relationship with new neighbours - in particular with the friendly Iranian Parvaneh (Bahar Pars) - but it also through those flashbacks reveals more and more about Ove's past: his childhood, his meeting with Sonja on a train and the key events of their married life. What this means in practical terms is that Holm's film seeks to be a comedy, a weepie and a feel-good film all in one. 

 

Some audiences will be at ease with that and also with the film's inherent sentimentality. But to my mind these contrasted elements which emerge turn by turn require different degrees of suspension of disbelief on the part of the audience if they are to work. Consequently, being able to respond to the comedy is no guarantee of finding that one can be touched when the film turns to tragedy. For that matter the meeting cute of Ove and Sonja belongs to an unreal world that prevents one from accepting the later dramatic scenes as being validly moving. Those who can accept such switches and are looking for a laugh, a tear and a tale in which those trying to wield authority get their comeuppance may well embrace this movie which, without actually winning, did earn for itself an Oscar nomination. 

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Cast: Rolf Lassgård, Bahar Pars, Filip Berg, Ida Engvoll, Chatarina Larsson, Börje Lundberg, Tobias Almborg, Klas Wiljergård, Poyan Karimi, Simon Edenroth, Johan Widerberg, Stefan Gödicke.

Dir Hannes Holm, Pro Annica Bellander Rune and Nicklas Wikström Nicastro, Screenplay Hannes Holm, from the novel by Fredrik Backman, Ph Göran Halberg, Pro Des Jan-Olof Ågren, Ed Fredrik Morheden, Music Gaute Storaas, Costumes Camilla Olai-Lindblom.

 

Tre Vänner/Film Väst/Nordisk Film/Fantefilm/Nordsvensk Filmunderhållning/SVT-Thunderbird Releasing.
116 mins. Sweden/Denmark/Norway. 2015. Rel: 30 June 2017. Cert. 15.