A Man Called Ove review: How to cure a curmudgeon


A Man Called Ove review: How to cure a curmudgeon
  1. A Man Called Ove review: How to cure a curmudgeon
    theage.com.au
    Humour and pathos meet in this Oscar-nominated…
    Football

You have to love a bloke who's fighting his own personal viking wars all the time, one at a time. Ove (pronounced Oo-vay) is 59 years old and a stickler for the rules. He does his "rounds" early each morning in the modest '60s-era townhouse co-operative where he lives, somewhere in Sweden. He picks up cigarette butts, notes the licence plates of cars improperly parked, sneers at a cat that won't go away and yells at a woman whose dog pisses on his lawn every day.

When Ove buys a bunch of flowers in the supermarket, he expects the two-for-one price, even if he only buys one bunch. The flowers are for his beloved wife Sonja, whose grave he visits daily. "This is a one-off," he tells her headstone, when he turns up with two bunches. "I'll see you shortly."

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Rolf Lassgard in <i>A Man Called Ove</i>. Rolf Lassgard in A Man Called Ove. Photo: Supplied

We can see where he's headed before we see the noose in his lounge room. The appalling managers at the railyard tell him they have a proposition, but they just want to get rid of him after 43 years of loyal service. He saves them the trouble and walks out. Nothing in this ghastly modern world surprises him, except perhaps goodness and kindness, which keep invading his lonely vigil of grief and anger.

A Man Called Ove was the Swedish nomination for best foreign-language film at the Oscars this year. It's a dour but likeable combination of humour and pathos, mixed with rage. Veteran dramatic actor Rolf Lassgard so inhabits the role of Ove as to make it seem like documentary. Lassgard never tries to get a laugh; indeed, Ove can't see anything that's funny. When the noose breaks on his second try, he storms back to the hardware shop: what kind of crap are you selling here? "What were you trying to use it for?" asks the puzzled sales girl through her chewing-gum.

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Filip Berg and Ida Engvoll in <i>A Man Called Ove</i>. Filip Berg and Ida Engvoll in A Man Called Ove. Photo: supplied

Hannes Holm is an experienced writer-director, but this project came with a warning. The book by columnist Fredrik Backman, published in 2012, was a resounding success, which puts high expectations on any film adaptation. I'm not sure if it's from the book, but one of the best decisions in the film is to show Ove's early life as a series of flashbacks that he experiences while trying to end his own life – through various means. This puts a block on a tendency towards sentimentalism in the soundtrack.

In the first of these, we meet a small boy whose father believed passionately in the goodness of engines and the quality of a Saab motor car; we see the boy grow into an awkward but bright young man (Filip Berg) who shares his father's passions and isolation, not mention his disdain for the Volvo. On a train, he meets a young trainee teacher, Sonja (Ida Engvoll), as vivacious and generous as he is withdrawn and unconfident. That's a hard role to fill, because she has t…

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