A Man Called Ove (2016)

A Man Called Ove
Holly Garrison

annes Holm’s adaption of the internationally best-selling novel by Fredrik Backman has beckoned new life into the grumpy elder archetype in A Man Called Ove. This comedic drama follows the solitary life of Ove, a short-tempered, surly man who is stuck in the past and doesn’t look positively on the future.

We are introduced to Ove (Rolf Lassgård) bickering with a store cashier over the validity of a coupon for flowers. He immediately becomes outraged by not receiving the discount he expected and his sour nature is clear; Ove is not a man that will put up with nonsense. Ove is not just a bitter old man, but someone that has lost all lust for life after the passing of his wife. Ove’s days are limited and the film explores his torment: to make the most of what is left in life or to commit suicide and join Sonja, his wife, in death. 

The newly-widowed and unemployed Ove fills his day with tedious and comical rituals that surround his self-granted position of neighborhood monitor. His daily routine involves checking the stability of fences, chasing away feral cats, and ensuring that the car-free status of the community is upheld (usually accomplished by yelling at unwelcome drivers). Though it satisfies Ove to maintain order, he rarely does so with a smile. Ove returns to a tidy but quiet home haunted by past memories of Sonja. Her clothes still hang in the closet and her portrait sits on a shelf watching over him.

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When not performing his neighborhood rounds, Ove visits the grave of his wife, venting aloud about the idiots he was forced to endure that day as he tidies her headstone. It is here that we see why the flower coupon was so important to him as he switches out the previous day’s shriveled bouquet for a fresh one. With each visit, Ove promises Sonja that he will be reunited with her soon.

Ove’s usual routine is upheaved when he is burdened with new neighbors, a chipper young couple with two young girls and another on the way. Ove resents their gregarious nature and initially shuns their kind gestures. The wife, Parvaneh (Bahar Pars), is a bold individual with whom Ove develops an unusual opposites-attract friendship. Parvaneh coaxes him out of the fortress he has built around himself and into a world where he can learn to find happiness in the company of others again.

Rolf Lassgård’s depiction of Ove is complex and convincing; the depth he brings to the character shows how intricate the emotions of the familiar angry old man can be once his past is understood. The additional characters that complement Ove are an impressive bunch. Each individual is uniquely and skillfully portrayed to create an immersive world with authentic inhabitants. Visually, the film has a compelling use of color that provides commentary on Ove’s mental state; his world seems a little brighter in his flashbacks when Sonja was still at his side. The cinematography is simple and pleasing, working as an appropriate counterpart for the narrative to be expressed as effectively as possible.

A Man Called Ove masterfully juxtaposes the bleak moments of Ove’s isolation with the tender memories he clings to of his marriage; the film beautifully encapsulates the tragedy of loss and the empowerment of companionship. Despite the emotional nature of the narrative, its successfully delivers as an immensely funny comedy. In short, A Man Called Ove is the perfect balance of hilarious, heartwarming, and cathartically melancholy. I suggest you bring a tissue or two.

A Man Called Ove is screening in the UICA Movie Theater November 11 - 22, 2016.