Time is a curious thing. Ove Lindahl (played respectively by Viktor Baagøe, Filip Berg and, of course, Rolf Lassgård) is a particularly cantankerous curmudgeon. Everybody is an idiot whose existences only serve to inconvenience him and his. He has worked the same job for 43 years, until two babyfaced executives take away his livelihood and present him with a gardening shovel as a token of service. Ove makes his rounds following his enforced retirement – he’s the worst (best) kind of neighbourhood watch in which he keeps his small Swedish community safe with his often impolite reinforcement of the block association rules. After his short walk, he puts on his best blue suit, empties the fridge, cancels his phone contract and attempts to hang himself in his living room, only to be interrupted by a crash outside his window. New neighbours: heavily-pregnant Parvaneh (Bahar Pars), Patrick (Tobias Almborg) and their girls, Sepideh (Nelly Jamarani) and Nasanin (Zozan Akgün) have moved in and they’re far from quiet. And so, Ove is coaxed back to giving life another go (until his next attempt) by the delightfully feisty Parvaneh, her family and his neighbours who – despite the grump’s failure to notice – actually like having him around.
Grief is a strange thing. Putting one foot in front of the other until your time is up and you can see your loved ones again (if you believe in that kind of thing). For Ove, living for those six months following his wife’s Sonja’s (Ida Engvøll) death is intolerable. It’s the one aspect which immediately warms the viewer to the largely unsympathetic moaning git. We can relate and as we get to know Ove through a series of flashbacks over the 120 plus minutes, there’s a very human reason for the doom, gloom, and defensive booming voice, and that’s testament to Rolf Lassgård’s performance. The one-time Wallander and veteran of Swedish film and TV brings a gentility and resolute grace to the character albeit in a slightly bad-tempered way. Despite being the same age as Ove at the time of filming, he underwent a bit of a physical transformation via prosthetics which age him greatly. This adds an additional layer of melancholy; this is a man who has had a hard life. Yet, he has such an old fashioned clarity of belief and a sense of morals, duty and unnerving conviction about how the world should be that one can’t help but admire him.
Love is a strange thing. It often takes you by surprise, and family comes in many forms and guises. A Man Called Ove is a heart-warming meditation on love, loss, family and life, and learning to follow and then disregard the rules. It reminds us the importance of community and the inclusion of the aged, experiencing joy alongside tragedy amid the blue, grey and beige phases of life. Oh, and that friendships can be forged and broken upon the type of car you drive. Hannes Holm’s adaptation of Fredrik’s Backman’s bestselling novel is warm, touching and moving. It treads a measured line between humour and sorrow and does so extremely well given how maudlin a film containing failed suicide attempts could’ve been. Instead, its regal music including triumphant strings does a really lovely job at elevating its purpose, and making a colourful, sweet and life-affirming film.