Stars: Rolf Lassgård, Bahar Pars, Tobias Almborg, Ida Engvoll
Director: Hannes Holm
This new Oscar-nominated Swedish film mixes comedy, drama, and romance, but perhaps not to the strongest effect. Starting off pleasantly enough with some dark humour revolving around suicide, the grumpy and depressed Ove (Rolf Lassgård) is distracted by the idea of killing himself because of his new neighbours, who he sees as a nuisance. Of course, this new family made up of Patrick (Tobias Almborg), his Iranian wife Parvaneh (Bahar Pars), and their two children will use their kindness and generosity to gradually chip away at Ove’s grumpy demeanour. There are also the intermediate flashbacks to when Ove was a lot younger, happier, and in a relationship with Sonja (Ida Engvoll), revealing through this ordinarily plotted romance sub-plot how exactly he went from being a kind-hearted man to the grump he is in the present time.
I suppose this film has its audience, as certain sections of the audience I was in were cracking up at this unrestrained elderly man’s antics and diatribes, though a lot of the humour feel flat for me and some of it was actually disengaging; for example, a jokey montage segment shows an aging Ove compete with another aging gentlemen with the sort of cars they buy, a dispute that ends up ruining their relationship as chairmen of the community they reside in, until they make amends – and then the dispute arises again over yet more of their car purchases, which made for a rather tired gag that makes Ove seem vindictive, not humorously grumpy.
A lot of the rest of the jokes are just Ove being mean and carelessly vocalising his meanness to others, which is more of a humorous character trait than actual jokes. But A Man Called Ove isn’t entirely a comedy, it has its drama elements, which are even more tiring than the humour. The romance between Ove and Sonja is mostly stock and offers up nothing new, apart from the notion that lost love causes sudden intense bitterness in a person (not the most inspiring of life lessons).
A Man Called Ove has its audience out there, as the Oscar voters seemed to have been warmly receptive to it, and Rolf Lassgård does the best he can with the lightweight material, impressing both with the comedy and the drama. For a film that begins with a few suicide attempts, there’s a general niceness throughout it (apart from the car rivalry sequence) that builds up to the rather heart-warming ending. Perhaps this is a pleasant film after all, but I’m too much of an Ove to appreciate it.