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19th December 2017 DATCHET VILLAGE HALL

A MAN CALLED OVE

Sweden/Denmark/Norway 2015 116 mins


Ove Lindahl Rolf Lassgård Director Hannes Holm
Parvaneh Bahar Pars Screenplay Hannes Holm
Young Ove Filip Berg Cinematographer Göran Hallberg
Sonya Lindahl Ida Engvoll Editor Fredrik Morheden
Rune
Anita
Patrick
Jimmy
Börje Lundberg
Chatarina Larsson
Tobias Almborg
Klas Wiljergård
Music Gaute Storaas


Based on the best-selling novel by Fredrik Backman, this Swedish comedy-drama about a grumpy old man is quite possibly the feel-good film of the year. Oscar voters clearly agreed, as it was nominated for Best Foreign-Language Film.

Directed by Hannes Holm and set in small-town, present-day Sweden, the film stars Rolf Lassgård as Ove, who wishes to die and join his beloved wife, Sonja, who he lost to cancer a year previously. However, Ove’s increasingly farcical suicide attempts keep getting interrupted, either by a stray cat, his neighbours breaking the strict rules of his residential block (which he takes it upon himself to enforce), or the distracting arrival of a new Persian family. Specifically pregnant mother Parvaneh, who seems hell-bent on befriending Ove, despite his curmudgeonly protestations. “Ove, you are ridiculously bad at dying,” she remarks.

A Man Called Ove poster

Holm’s adapted screenplay cleverly structures the story so that after each comically disastrous suicide attempt, we flash back to Ove’s younger life (where he’s played by Filip Berg). Gradually we learn more about both his courtship of Sonja and the events that turned him into the cantankerous old man he is today. The early flashback scenes unfold like a classic romance and are utterly charming, thanks in no small part to Engvoll’s luminescent performance as Sonja, who sparks palpable chemistry with Berg’s younger Ove. The scenes are given added poignancy through present-day Ove’s frequent graveside chats with Sonja, which take on a darkly funny tone as he apologises for not managing to kill himself yet (“it’s not as easy as you might think”).

Frequently laugh-out-loud funny, there are plenty of verbal and visual jokes. There’s also a series of great running gags, such as Ove falling out with his former best friend because he bought a hated Volvo rather than a Saab. Lassgård is wonderful in the lead role, with his seemingly permanent frown, crotchety, twinkle-free demeanour and two-fingered point, deployed whenever a neighbour flaunts the rules. Ove’s gradual thawing is so finely calibrated as to be almost imperceptible. Pars meanwhile is delightful as his perpetually upbeat new neighbour, whose warm-hearted nature is extremely infectious, as much for the audience as for Ove himself.

The film also looks stunning, thanks to crisp, clean cinematography from Göran Hallberg (who also shot fellow Swedish old man hit The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared). This is an engaging and enjoyable feel-good picture that’s both laugh-out-loud funny and powerfully emotional, thanks to a bittersweet script, accomplished direction and a superb central performance from Rolf Lassgård.

Matthew Turner at www.inews.co.uk