Film Review: A MAN CALLED OVE (Sweden 2015) ****

a_man_called_ove.jpgDirector: Hannes Holm

Writers: Hannes Holm (screenplay), Fredrik Backman (novel)

Stars: Rolf Lassgård, Bahar Pars, Filip Berg

Review by Gilbert Seah

Nominated for two Academy Awards for Best Foreign Film and Make-up & Hairstyling, A MAN CALLED OVE stands to compete with the big guys like the favourites THE SALESMAN, TONI ERDMANN and THE LAND OF MINE but the film has already been a hit in the U.S. when it opened last September as well as in its native country Sweden. The film is a dark horse but it might just be the winner as the Academy is made up of older voters and this film about an old retied widower is just the type of film that suits the voters.

Based on Fredrik Backman’s beloved novel (a 3.8 million bestseller), A MAN CALLED OVE tells the story of Ove (Rolf Lassgård from Downsizing, The Hunters, After the Wedding), a retired widower and a curmudgeon who keeps a critical eye on his neighbours and their goings on. He is all but given up on the world, until Parvaneh (Bahar Pars) and her family moves in across the street and an unexpected friendship emerges.

When the film opens, Ove is shown as an old grump. Films about old codgers have always been a favourite subject for filmmakers with films like GRUMPY OLD MEN (Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon) and the recent Scandinavian entry by Dome Karukoski called THE GRUMP. Like the grump in THE GRUMP, Ove is angry at all around him, but director Holm (Adam & Eva, Behind Blue Skies) ensures that he is a likeable character.

Ove (young Ove played by Filip Berg) is shown pining over his late wife (Ida Engyoll). He smells her clothes and visits her grave at least once a day bringing flowers. Who cannot like such a devoted husband? But Ove wants to end it all, as he sees no purpose in living. So, he attempts various ways of doing himself in including hanging himself in the middle of the living room, often with no success. During the time, when he is in ‘limbo’, his brain races to recall past memories. Director Holm uses this time to flashback and reveal to the audience the early life of Ove – from the loss of both parents to finding the love of his life. The film also plays as a romance. The dinner date scene and the marriage proposal scenes are both very romantic. Though more than half he film is in flashback, the transition from current to flashback is carried out very smoothly.

Holm’s film is not one with special effects or stunning cinematography. The cinematography by Göran Hallberg is still impressive with him giving the film a hazy romantic atmosphere. It is a film about human beings. It is good that Holm trusts the source material and the charm of the book rubs off the film nicely.

The film is immediately likeable for it will make the audience both laugh and cry at Ove’s undertakings. One can also relate with the main character – whether it him being a loner, a romantic or a senior or a misunderstood man.


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