Very seldom do I walk the path of high recommendation for a foreign language film since I am often reminded subtitles are not for everyone. “A Man Called Ove” however, is for everyone who is feeling the need for an authentic and touching film. Yep, even if the whole subtitle thing does scare you.
The film is based on the international best-selling novel by Fredrik Backman and it is written for the screen and directed by Hannes Holm. It was the winner of the Audience Award, Best Actor, Best Make-Up and 2016 Guldbagge Awards (Sweden’s Academy Awards) and it also won a Best Actor Award at the 2016 Seattle International Film Festival and was an Official Selection at the 2016 Edinburgh International Film Festival.
No surprise since it is almost award season, “A Man Called Ove” has been announced as Sweden’s 2016 official Oscar entry selection for Best Foreign Language Film.
In Swedish and Farsi with English subtitles, “A Man Called Ove” is a comic, yet touching story about Ove played by Rolf Lassgård who is stubborn, short-tempered, cantankerous and pretty much under the impression all who are around him are idiots. He visits his widow’s grave daily and it’s clear he has pretty much given up on life.
His biggest thrill it seems in his isolated retiree existence and his daily policing of his block association. At one time he was the chairman of the association and he will never forget the slight of losing that post, but he still attempts to make sure that everyone lives up to his block association standards throwing shoes at stray cats and hiding unattended bicycles.
Overall, people just don’t live up to what Ove expects and that is particularly driven home when new neighbors arrive, a young couple with children in tow. The first thing they do is smash his mailbox with their moving van. She’s pregnant and the husband is not handy with tools and it turns out they need Ove – it takes a bit longer for him to realize he needs them too.
In fact, the new couple and their children genuinely learn to love the cantankerous old man even with his eccentricities and he in turn learns to love them back. The relationship builds throughout the film and the viewer begins to understand Ove’s happiness and heartbreaks.
The use of flashbacks take the audience on a personal ride with Ove as we see who he was, who he has become and why it is so important that his neighbors shake his world in more ways than one so he can live again.
An ongoing theme in the film is Ove’s visits to his wife’s grave and his promise to join her soon as we watch his number of botched attempts at suicide. It’s not so much his fault that he can’t off himself since those Scandinavian values of his make him reliable to the point that each suicide attempt is interrupted by an outside need and the nuisance of a situation that calls for his attention.
“A Man Called Ove” is one of Sweden’s biggest locally-produced box office hits ever. If you have visited Sweden or know the vibe of its people this film will instantly cause you to reminiscence on the overall Swedish attitude. For those unfamiliar with the Swedish character take note since the writer/director serves to create a window into that world with perfection. It is also a window that reminds us that life is definitely sweeter when shared.
Holm has put a lot into the telling of this well-crafted film and the balance it strikes on all levels is filmmaking perfection that will touch your soul.