Friday, October 14, 2016

A MAN CALLED OVE: A Lovely Look At The Life Of A Curmudgeon

Now playing at an indie art house near me:

A MAN CALLED OVE (Dir. Hannes Holm, 2016)

There is a mini genre of movies about old cranky guys whose wives have just died and they have to realize that, with the help of some quirky elements, there are still reasons to still want to be alive. See ABOUT SCHMIDT, GRAN TARINO, and UP for starters.

Add to that short but sweet list writer/director Hannes Holms’s A MAN CALLED OVE, which stars Rolf Lassgård as Ove, a 60-ish widower who lives in a small gated townhouse community in a pretty plain looking suburb of Sweden.

When Ove loses his job of 43 years with the railroad, he decides to take his life so that he can join his wife in the afterlife much sooner. But his attempts to hang himself (with a thin blue nylon rope that you know is just going to break) keep getting interrupted by a family moving in next door.

Ove’s new neighbors consist of the pregnant Iranian refugee Parvaneh (Bahar Pars), her dopey, bearded husband (Tobias Almborg), and their two young daughters (Zozan Akgün and Nelly Jamarani).

Ove’s suicide attempts trigger a series of emotional flashbacks which show us how his parents died at an early age, how he got his job, how he met his wife Sonja (Ida Engvoll), and how, in the most vivid and impactful one, how their life was derailed by a tragic accident.

In between these affecting flashbacks in which Ove is well played by the 30-ish Filip Berg, Parvaneh gets closer to the present day ornery Ove and even has him babysit her kids. Then Ove, who has a heart that’s “too big” as we are told on a hospital visit, takes in a mangy cat, lets a teenager who’s been kicked out of his house for being gay stay at his apartment, and teaches Parveneh how to drive.

However, all through this, Ove daily visits his wife’s grave and tells her he’ll be there as soon as he can.

Based on Fredrik Backman’s 2012 novel, A MAN CALLED OVE is a lovely look at the life of a curmudgeon. It can get a bit cutesy at times, but its humor and plainspoken unpretentiousness grounds the proceedings. I was greatly amused by Lassgård’s Ove who bemoans who he calls the “white shirts” (corporate bureaucrats), and the “idiots” who are pretty much everyone else who gets in his way.

The film serves as a excellent introduction for American audiences (and me) to Lassgård, who’s an award-winning Swedish actor with an impressive resume of film and television work. Holm’s movie itself has desirably won awards in his home country and is an international hit – it’s also Sweden’s entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the next Oscars - so don’t let things like subtitles, or weird dislike of foreign films keep you from this charming, uplifting crowd pleaser.

The people who’d pass this up for some lackluster, and unispiring title at the multiplex are what Ove most mutters under his breath throughout the film: “idiots.”

More later...

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