“A Man Called Ove” (2016)
Ove, a 59-year-old man (played by Rolf Lassgård and Filip Berg / Viktor Baagoe in flashbacks), wakes up and begins his rounds checking on his Condominium community. He walks with a purpose on the well-manacled streets. He looks for any sort of what he considers violations of the community rules. A cigarette butt is picked up as he mutters under his breath and notes across from whose house it was located. He checks the doors to all the garages on the site. He yells at a woman walking her small dog, threatening to turn the dog into a shoe if the owner doesn’t stop the dog from peeing on the sidewalk. He refuses to make small talk with his neighbors and when asked for help with simple things like bleeding a radiator, tells them to fix it themselves.
Ove makes his way to a local market and gets into an argument with a clerk when he tries to use a two for $70 coupon to buy only one bunch of flowers, thinking he should get the one bunch for 35 dollars instead of what the clerk wants to charge at $40. We find out that Ove wants the flowers to place at his newly dead wife’s grave. He talks with her about all the stupid people in the community and how it’s going to hell. It’s evident that he loved his wife and misses her deeply. Ove leaves with the promise that he will be seeing her soon.
Ove heads for home, first stopping a car from traveling through his little fiefdom. The car barely stops before a man from some sort of government position tells Ove he has a permit that allows him to drive anywhere and Ove has no say in the matter. The man speeds off, leaving a lit cigarette at Ove’s feet. Ove, frustrated by the encounter, heads inside and changes into a coat and tie. He fixes his hair and heads downstairs. There we see that he has placed a noose to a hook hanging from the ceiling. Saying good-bye to his wife’s picture, he steps on a stool and puts the noose around his neck. Just as he is about to kick the stool from his feet, he sees out the window as a car with a trailer is attempting very poorly to back up, destroying his mailbox. He takes the noose off and heads angrily outside, to confront a family of four who are moving into the neighborhood. Little does Ove know how much his new neighbors will have an effect on him and even more shockingly, how much he will affect his new neighbors.
Director/screenwriter Hannes Holm brings us a tale of a grumpy old man who sees the need to follow the rules and only to depend on you and you alone, much to the grief and frustration of his neighbors. We learn from a series of flashbacks beginning with his childhood and continuing through his life with Sonja, his wife (played by Ida Engvoll), that he feels that he has no choice to live this way. His life has been severely impacted by people not following the rules. It’s through these flashbacks we get to meet and understand Ove, a man who is deep in his heart is good, kind and willing to help others. That man is still in there now that Ove is a widower, it’s just going to take someone or maybe a group of people (like the new family that has just moved in) to help bring that Ove out into the open.
Holm’s brings us a story (based on the novel by Swedish author Fredrik Backman) that deftly moves back and forth between Ove’s present, where he continually tries to commit suicide (always failing to comedic effect) and his past, where we see what made him this way. I loved these contradictions in the film where the young Ove is constantly fighting to live a better life and the old Ove, who just wants to end his life to see his beloved wife again.
Rolf Lassgard gives a beautiful, nuanced performance as the gruff, rule-obsessed Ove. His interactions with Bahar Pars, who plays his new, very pregnant neighbor, Parvaneh, are some of the comedic highlights of the film. Pars brings the playful but determined Parvaneh to life. Her character sees that there just might be something inside Ove worth knowing and is going to try her hardest to bring that someone out. Lassgard and Pars have great chemistry on screen and they play off each other with ease as the two characters battle over whose personality is going to win in this struggle of strong wills.
This charming and funny film can be summed up in a line that Parvaneh gives to Ove after being frustrated by his inability to share what is bothering him: “No one manages completely on their own.” It’s an idea that Ove and we learn together in this fantastic film. My Rating: Full Price
My movie rating system from Best to Worst: 1). I Would Pay to See it Again 2). Full Price 3). Bargain Matinee 4). Cable 5). You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again
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