Nominated for two Academy Awards and adapted from Fredrik Backman’s 2012 novel of the same name, A Man Called Ove tells a touching story which centres around themes of love, death and the infinite wonder of the human condition. Directed by Hannes Holm who also wrote the screenplay, this brilliantly crafted Swedish black comedy depicts one of the most genuinely touching stories you will come across this year. Comparisons with last year’s other European surprise hit Toni Erdmann (Maren Ade) are understandable considering that both films feature men of a certain age dealing with existential crises, yet the similarities end here.
Fifty nine year old Ove (Rolf Lassgård) has been widowed for a year since losing his wife Sonja (Ida Engvoll) to cancer. After being made redundant from the only job he has ever had, Ove decides that life is no longer worth living without his soulmate, and aims to take matters onto his own hands in a series of failed suicide attempts. Undeterred by his repeated failures, Ove is determined to succeed, but things don’t quite go to plan when a young family made up of pregnant Iranian immigrant Parvaneh (Bahar Pars), her Swedish husband Patrick (Tobias Almborg) and their two young children, move across the way from the old man. Dismayed by the noisy newcomers, Ove who prides himself on being a stickler for rules and regulations, will have to learn to live with them despite his earlier misgivings and in time will find them as valuable to him, as he is to them.
Holm uses a series of flashback to tell this hugely affecting tale, managing to strike the right balance and between dark comedy and drama without ever slipping into the morbid. As we get to know our main protagonist, things gradually begin to fall into place when secrets are revealed and old grudges are laid to rest. Holm’s expertly crafted screenplay manages to depict the anguish felt by the loss of a loved one in the most beautifully sedate manner; he does this without ever having to resort to unnecessary melodramatic tropes.
Lassgård, who despite looking way older than fifty nine, puts in a brilliantly sombre, yet at times, mischievous performance. While Filip Berg who plays young Ove manages to expertly portray him as a man whose understanding of the world is limited to the things he knows best. Ove knows what car he prefers to drive and will have a lot to say about anyone driving a different make. Bahar Pars is a true revelation as Parvaneh, her character is not only practical but is also deeply caring. Her stoic Middle Eastern bravery soon stars to rub off on everyone around her.
A Man Called Ove is endearing without being overly sweet, and funny without ever resorting to slapstick or gross out moments. Holm manages to get the film’s tone just right, something not many directors or screenwriter are capable of when attempting black comedy. A genuinely enjoyable two hours which will have you howling with laughter one minute, and sobbing the next.
A Man Called Ove is released on June 30th