A Man Called Ove (En Man Som Heter Ove) is probably a lot funnier if you’re Swedish. Those must be some dark f*****s over there. Every Swede I’ve ever met has seemed pretty upbeat, but damn this film gets dark. Perhaps Americans are just too sensitive.
This film artfully rides a line between horrific tragedy and warm familial grace without ever become sticky sweet sentimental.
You’ve seen stories like this, we are on the verge of being able to declare it a trope, or god forbid a genre, it’s come up so often. The formula seems to go: Oh look there’s a cranky miserable old bastard. He’s a dick to everybody. F**k that guy. But wait… WHY is he dick to everyone? Should we not find out what might have happened to him to make it so? He may be a perfectly lovely person twisted by circumstances that went beyond his control. If we can only reach him we’ll understand and make his life better and ours as well! I mean… maybe. I have a friend who thinks that about every miserable f**k she encounters or hears about. She wears me out but she’s usually right. However, I’ve also met enough damaged shitty personalities with no tragic redeeming explanatory backstory to make me suspicious of allowing for that justification every time. Sometimes people just suck but fortunately for us movies have to make some kind of sense of the world.
A few examples of the Miserable Old F**k (M.O.F) in film: St. Vincent, Gran Torino, As Good as it Gets, Finding Forrester, Alan Arkin in Little Miss Sunshine, Grumpy Old Men 1-X and most of the movies starring Billy Bob Thornton. It’s a freaking franchise of miserable old fucks.
So, what of Ove? When we meet Ove he is solidly in the M.O.F. category making it great. He seems to hate every neighbor and their dog. Being retired, he makes a daily round of the neighborhood to bitch at people about any slight deviation from the rules of the street and making sure everything is neat and orderly. Ove’s world proceeds in mechanical precision until the day a family moves in across the streets and upends his life. We learn, through the eyes of his new friend Parvaneh about Ove’s past and what might possibly bring some light into the dark existence of this one M.O.F.
You’re probably thinking at this point that I didn’t like the film, but I actually did quite a bit and I recommend it, Formula is not always bad; in this case there are enough fresh elements to give the movie real life and tease you into caring about Ove, Parvaneh and all their neighbors. Ida Engvoll as Sonja is incredibly unearthly beautiful. The film is subtitled, in case you don’t speak Swedish. There will be tears and laughter as it unfolds. It is darker and smarter than typical American drama/comedy which is actually a refreshing change of pace.
A Man Called Ove (2017) Directed by Hannes Holm. Written by Hannes Holm Starring Rolf Lassgård, Bahar Pars, Ida Engvoll.
7 out of 10