4.5 stars. Rated PG-13, for dramatic intensity and mild profanity
By Derrick Bang • Originally published in The Davis Enterprise, 10.28.16
Rarely has a film delivered such a blend of comedy and pathos, laughter and tears.
Trust the Swedes to leaven humor with such bleak, unexpected tragedy. Must be those long winters.
|Ove (Rolf Lassgard) is not a man to cross, when he|
makes his morning rounds: Woe to those who leave
garden tools, bicycles, toys or anything else lying
about, in what he believes should be the pristine
grounds of the housing association he monitors.
Director/scripter Hannes Holm’s A Man Called Ove (pronounced ooo-vuh) is a captivating saga of love, loss, redemption, inclusion, kindness and pretty much every emotion that matters. This deceptively uncomplicated saga of a cranky retiree actually has a lot on its mind — as does the cranky retiree — and both are full of surprises.
Holm’s tender little tale was nominated for seven of Sweden’s Guldbagge Awards — their Oscars — and won three, including Best Actor and the Audience Award. The only disappointing surprise is that Holm wasn’t one of the nominees, because the film owes much of its charm to the extremely clever manner in which the narrative unfolds.
Best use of flashbacks. Ever.
Fredrik Backman’s international best-selling novel, on which this film is based, has been described as a heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unexpected friendship, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul. Which is accurate, but rather an understatement.
The story focuses on Ove (Rolf Lassgård), the quintessential stubborn, short-fused old man next door. He lives by himself in a good-sized, strictly regulated block community laden with rules, which we eventually learn he established himself, as former association head. No motorized vehicles on the residential pathways. No bicycles or toys left lying about. Garage doors kept closed and locked. No cigarette butts.
You get the idea.
Ove makes his “rounds” every morning before breakfast, confiscating inappropriately placed items, and trading waspish retorts with anybody foolish enough to object. A few imprudent souls argue, such as the woman with a yappy dog (a creature which, in fairness, probably deserves the fate Ove proposes). Most of the neighbors, though, ignore Ove’s waspish tirades, in some cases greeting him cheerily.
Which is interesting, and raises the appropriate questions. Indeed, it points to the story’s essential moral: First impressions can be misleading.
Ove’s other daily ritual is a visit to the grave of his beloved wife, Sonja, where he grouses further, complaining about the “id-jaughts” who’ve taken over the world.
It becomes clear, following his subsequent movements in a house still laden with his wife’s belongings, that Ove isn’t cranky out of mere anger or spite; he’s lonely and profoundly depressed, unable to move on. Nor does he wish to; wanting to rejoin Sonja in the hereafter, he’s determined to end his life. Unfortunately, his efforts are interrupted repeatedly by ... stuff.