By CYNTHIA BIDDLECOMB
“A Man Called Ove” is one of the Oscar nominees for Best Foreign Language Film of 2016.
If you don’t speak Swedish and don’t like reading subtitles, you’ll just have to read the book by Fredrik Backman. It is terrific! What the film offers are some wonderful character performances, despite the pruned storyline.
The story takes place in a community of look-alike, blockhouses. Our hero Ove Lindahl used to be president of the homeowners association and since those glory days everything he sees is going to pot.
Every morning Ove still makes the rounds of the community to check that rules are being followed, cars are parked properly, gates are closed and bikes are not left outside. He rails against the cars that drive along the lane clearly marked “No Cars Beyond This Point.” The neighbor’s Chihuahua pees on his paving stones and he threatens to make mince meat of the creature. You get the picture. Ove is a famously formidable curmudgeon.
Each day Ove tries a different method of offing himself, attempting to join his recently departed wife in the blessed hereafter. But each time he gets interrupted by someone needing help. In between scenes, we are given Ove’s life story through flashbacks to events that made him the man he is. His has been an eventful life.
This is a delightful story of mutual acceptance and honorable behavior (laced with frightening suicide attempts that happily fail). Tough old Ove meets his match in a new neighbor named Parveneh who is an Iranian immigrant married to a Swedish oaf. They have two darling daughters. Ove also meets his match in a scruffy cat who adopts him, despite being shooed away by him many, many times.
By the end of the film Ove has named Parveneh his next of kin on the hospital paperwork, Parveneh’s daughters call Ove “grandpa”, and the community pulls together to outsmart the “white shirts” who represent obstructionist bureaucracy.
The role of Ove is perfectly embodied by Rolf Lassgård, with Filip Berg as Ove’s young adult self and Viktor Baagøe as his 7-year-old self. Ove’s late wife Sonja is played by Ida Engvoll. But the liveliest role is that of Parveneh, played by Bahar Pars. The developing friendship between Ove and Parveneh is the core of this story. We get the impression that dear departed Sonja must have had the same magic touch for getting this quiet man to interact with the world around him.
A Man Called Ove is available on DVD now, which is how I saw it (Netflix). You may be able to stream it, as well. I highly recommend this endearing movie.
One comes away with a great appreciation for the backstory hidden behind the rude behavior of your neighborhood curmudgeon. The film is “Rated PG-13 for thematic content, some disturbing images, and language.” In my opinion, younger children ought not to watch this movie; the suicide attempts are earnest and not at all funny.