On first introduction, Ove (Rolf Lassgård) is a grumbling, busybody stickler whose pedantic neighbourhood rule enforcement and chastisement is likely to be interpreted as over-the-top. The dry comedy of the establishing scenes is effectively heightened by a signature musical motif, a technique similarly employed in The Lady in the Van. Like its British relative, A Man Called Ove is a hilarious character study. Ove is a delightfully cantankerous man and even has his own damning catchphrase frequently directed at those who cross him, yet by the film’s end a complex and sympathetic portrait has been woven.
Through flashbacks Hannes Holm gradually reconciles the present day Ove with his milder younger self (Filip Berg). Though this is hardly an original technique (the more sentimental and idealised The Notebook is almost identically structured), A Man Called Ove creates a remarkable and unprecedented level of understanding and empathy for its protagonist. By the credits you might just wish Ove was your own neighbour.
A Man Called Ove excels in all creative and technical respects. The plot’s many eras are decorated and furnished with distinctive accuracy, and hair and makeup teams have aged actors faultlessly. Even cars are well-characterised, and this forms the film’s best piece of observational humour. Fredrik Backman’s characters are admirably realised on screen, with both acting and characterisation uniformly excellent. Unsurprisingly, it’s Ove and his foibles that are best expressed, yet Parvaneh (Bahar Pars) helps to endear him and the two actors have pitch-perfect chemistry.
A Man Called Ove is told with love and care, and a level of craftsmanship that would make Ove himself proud. This epic of a life and those it touches advocates for tolerance and breaking down prejudices – surely there is no more worthwhile or timely message. Swedish cinema triumphs again.
CAST: Rolf Lassgård, Zozan Akgün, Tobias Almborg, Viktor Baagøe, Filip Berg, Bahar Pars
DIRECTOR: Hannes Holm
WRITERS: Hannes Holm (screenplay), Fredrik Backman (novel)
SYNOPSIS: 59 year old Ove grumpily rules over his neighbourhood with an iron fist. But when pregnant Parvaneh and her family moves into the house opposite an unexpected friendship develops.