Thursday, 16 February 2017

A MAN CALLED OVE - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Sentimental Swedish Ode to Old Grump

Plucky Persian Perks Up Grump's Spirits.
A Man Called Ove (2016)
Dir. Hannes Holm
Nvl. Fredrik Backman
Starring: Rolf Lassgård, Bahar Pars, Filip Berg, Ida Engvoll

Review By Greg Klymkiw

You'd have to be the biggest grumpy-pants in the world not to respond to A Man Called Ove, a sweetly funny, delightfully romantic and almost-ridiculously sentimental picture about an old curmudgeon who keeps getting interrupted every single time he attempts to commit suicide. Based on Fredrik Backman's 2012 novel of the same name, writer-director Hannes (Behind Blue Skies) Holm renders this always-humorous and often tear-squirtingly moving movie in a solid, straightforward fashion that allows its first-rate cast to flex considerable muscle.

59-year-old Ove (Lassgård) carries his stern, sullen countenance as if it were a badge of honour. As the persnickety prefect of a townhouse community, he makes his daily morning rounds of the complex, wielding an iron fist and spitting out his disgust when anything (or anyone, for that matter) is the least bit out of place. Being a grump seems to be the only thing that gives him happiness.

After being forced into retirement from the factory he's been foreman at for several decades, the taciturn recent-widower becomes a man with a mission. His goal is to become reunited with his beloved wife (Ida Engvoll). As she's six-feet-under (he visits her grave daily with fresh flowers), the reunion can only be effected via suicide.

With a noose round his neck, a kerfuffle just outside the house commands his attention. A new family, led by the pretty, pregnant and definitely Persian matriarch Parvaneh (Pars), are moving in across the way and whilst backing up their u-Haul trailer, Ove's mailbox gets knocked over.

This will not be the first time his suicide attempts will be foiled. Little does he know it yet, but Ove still has plenty to live for and the world still has plenty of reason for him to keep going.

Kids will always melt the cold heart of a Grumpy-pants!
Many things annoy Ove, but it hasn't necessarily always been that way. Flashbacks (which occur just prior to his suicide attempts) deliver warm insight into his relationship with his father and, perhaps most importantly, the grand, though ultimately melancholy love story that shapes him.

Throughout much of his life, the thing that really irked (and continues to irk) him were/are the "white shirts" - bureaucrats whose only reason for being is to make the lives of everyone else intolerable. Ove's specialty has always been railing against the injustices of bureaucracy and finding ways to cut through the red tape placed before real people. Along the way, his own penchant for red tape forces him to take a good hard look in the mirror.

The centrepiece of A Man Called Ove is Rolf Lassgård's astonishing performance. The picture has been nominated for two Oscars, Best Foreign Film and Best Makeup, but the jaw-dropper omission is a Best Actor nod.

Lassgård's deadpan is impeccable, but there's not too much on any big screen out there that's more affecting than those moments when (via Lassgård) Ove's cold heart is melted by the kindness of others, a grumpy cat he adopts, a Middle Eastern gay man seeking refuge from his family when he comes out, a dear old friend stricken by a debilitating stroke and the genuine warmth afforded to him by the sweet children of his neighbours.

(Yeah, I know this sounds like it could be vaguely sickening, but Holm's assured direction keeps things in check.)

And when Lassgård's Ove sheds a tear or three, there will be no dry eyes in the house - except, perhaps, those ocular ejections held back by those of the grumpy-pants persuasion. Chances are good, though, that even they will succumb.


A Man Called Ove is a Pacific Northwest Pictures (Canada) and Music Box (USA) release. It opens in Canada on February 17/17.