A Man Called Ove

Hannes Holm
Release Year:
Hannes Holm (screenplay), Fredrik Backman (novel)
Rolf Lassgård, Bahar Pars, Filip Berg
Academy Awards, USA 2017 Nominated Best Foreign Language Film of the Year
Screening Date:
  • 19 Dec 2017
  • Categories:
    Comedy, Drama

    A smash hit in Sweden. Wallander star Rolf Lassgård stars as Ove, the quintessential grumpy old man who spends his days enforcing housing association rules and visiting his wife's grave, and who has finally given up on life when an unlikely friendship develops with his new neighbours. Combines heart breaking events with heartwarming humour.

    Film Notes

    Music Box Films release opening Friday at three Chicago-area theaters, "A Man Called Ove" is a crisp, pleasing film adaptation of Fredrik Backman's best-seller out of Sweden. You'd likely guess the locale simply by the nature of a key grudge held by the abrasive title character: His only long-standing male friendship nearly comes to ruin over a dispute regarding which is the better car, a Saab or a Volvo. Ove, played with canny gradations of disdain and warmth by the wonderfully granite-faced Rolf Lassgard, qualifies as his homeland's premier Grumpy Old Swede. Well, not so old; at the age of 59, this scowling, muttering character gets bounced from his factory job, leaving his days as a widower to be filled by making the security rounds at the housing complex where he lives. The only color in his life comes from the bright jackets worn by his late wife, still hanging near the front door. The picture is a smooth, methodical black comedy. The story as streamlined by adapter and director Hannes Holm introduces Ove by way of several unsuccessful suicide attempts. One such attempt is derailed by the introduction of his new neighbors, a boisterous family of four whose pregnant Iranian refugee matriarch, Parvaneh, is played by the very fine Bahar Pars. In extended flashbacks, Holm lays in the history of Ove, and how he got this way. Author Backman owes a little something to Charles Dickens; Ove's emotionally closed off at an early age, too soon left without parents, and when he meets his heart's desire (Ida Engvoll, luminous as Sonja) he begins to see life's possibilities beyond rugged individualism, Swedish style. Ove is no stranger to tragedy, and as the present-day scenes progress through Ove's gradual recognition of the people around him, the movie (like its source material) becomes an engaging push/pull of emotions. Lassgard isn't the whole show, but he's most of it, and he's rock steady without being predictable, or falling into easy caricature, even when the movie veers that way. There's stubborn dignity in this crab's defense mechanisms. But when he learns to live without them, be warned: hearts will warm, and tears may fall. Sweet and flinty in roughly equal measure, the movie's a big hit in its native country, and it's Sweden's official entry for the upcoming foreign language Academy Award nominations.
    Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune September 29th 2016.
    Here is a well-intentioned but tiresomely glib piece of sentimental whimsy from Sweden, based on a bestselling novel. It’s similar in many ways to that other Swedish heartwarmer The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared. A Scroogey old grump called Ove (Rolf Lassgård) goes about the locality being bad-tempered and disagreeable and enforcing neighbourhood-watch-type rules that he himself has made up. But we find out a little about his late wife Sonja (Ida Engvoll) and about the tough breaks that Ove has had along the way, which explain how this shy young man became a cantankerous old devil. Then some new young neighbours give him a chance at happiness and redemption. The movie has lots of scenes in which Ove tries to kill himself in various quirky ways, but getting hilariously interrupted by the sounds of people infringing his little rules and regulations out in the street – of course he can’t help rushing out to object. Like the film itself, these moments succeed in being not very funny, not very sad, not very believable, and not very interesting.
    Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian, June 29th 2017


    What you thought about A Man Called Ove

    Film Responses

    Excellent Good Average Poor Very Poor
    59 (63%) 29 (31%) 5 (5%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%)
    Total Number of Responses: 93
    Film Score (0-5): 4.58

    Collated Response Comments

    184 members and guests came along for this Christmas screening. The wine and mince pies seemed to go down well and the raffle prizes were scattered fairly across the auditoria. There were 93 responses providing a 51% hit rate. “A charming story – a real feel good pre-Christmas film. It captures the book well”. “We are what our past makes us – very occasionally we are given an opportunity to rethink and adjust. A story of hope love and warmth”. “An extraordinary film – A Christmas gift of great value”. “Really touching and delightful study of how communities can transform the lives of the lonely”. “A bit dour at the start but once you got to know him…great!” “Very suitable for Christmas”. “Great film. Excellent central character. This film had everything; it was funny and sad in equal measure”. “Yes sentimental but superbly cast and acted. Lovely to see how crusty old Ove gradually thawed”. “A bitter sweet study of loneliness and community”. “Redemption through people kindness and care. We can’t be without any of those”. “Having read the Book, I would say it made a better film. It held my interest all the way through and I laughed and cried, it really was very moving. It efficienced how important human contact is. But I did think that Rolf Lassgård looked a lot older than 59”. “It is nice to view such a pleasing alternative to ‘Scrooge’ (or indeed ‘Up’) at this time of year. Given the story arc is a familiar one and that it satisfyingly follows the desired trajectory it could have been predictable and saccharine but the unexpected sharp humour and Ove’s grumpy asides keep it the right side of sentimental. Lassgård doesn’t overplay the Meldrew-isms (as his Hollywood counterparts so often have; Nicholson, Murray) and the twin female leads of the salty and capable Parvaneh and the twinkling, patient and witty Sonja are played with a deftly light touch and tremendous brio. The final shot pulling away from the village revealing a thicket of Ove’s prescriptive signage was slightly suspicious though; suggesting that there is redemption in community …but only if you obey the rules. A delight nonetheless”. “Poignant, heart-warming, sad, funny, well-acted by Rolf Lassgård, we loved it”. “Something of a modern parable about a brave, decent, capable man trying to survive in a society of idiots and petty bureaucrats and who finds redemption in an immigrant family, a gay man and a cat. A little trite maybe but played beautifully by an excellent cast”. “Started out slowly – getting cheap laughs at the expense of an old widower’s sadness. But you needed that to get into his head. After that…..” “A whole gamut of emotions - at times heartrending and sad with great moments of humour…brilliantly acted”. “Sentimental but enjoyable”. “More sentimental than I was expecting. A tearjerker for those of us reminded of our own departed Dads”. “I waited until this morning to respond, as I couldn’t decide last night whether this film was second rate or merely third rate. It passed the time, and had some good bits – the awkwardness of taking a girl to a restaurant for the first time was well caught (or maybe just a bit too close to home?), and there was something in the bits where he talked to Sonja’s grave. But overall I would liken the comparison with Tangerines to comparing a painting by numbers with a Rembrandt. Some good bits and some poor bits rather crudely jumbled together. I am left wondering whether I should respond to the film in the abstract or to whether I liked it. I missed the subtlety that I think I prefer in a film, and whilst belief always has to be suspended, the succession of implausible melodramatic incidents grated. ‘Now you will gasp, ja. Now you will laugh, ja. Now you will cry.’ Details like the blood-stained results list were just too heavy-handed. And I think the director was too taken in by the mythical ‘Sonja as angel’, whereas some examination of Ove’s memory of Sonja as angel as compared with the reality might have been interesting. No, sorry, the more I think about it, the more flaws I see. But it passed the time”. “I think it was a good film although rather clichéd and predictable”. As a modern day Scrooge a good film for Christmas. A little too sentimental and too many borderline acts of heroism but satisfying and very funny in places”. ”A rather contrived and unbelievable story but very enjoyable. Nice score”. “A film with everything; sentimental, uplifting, funny and with black humour”. “Having read the book and very much enjoyed it – I feel the film stayed true to the flavour and story of the book”. “Uplifting – a bit mawkish in places but overall a good balance of humour and piquancy. Good acting across the board. Overall a D+ for Bradshaw”. “Sentimental and formulaic in many respects, but it worked overall. A great feel-good movie for Christmas”.

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