The adaptation of Fredrik Backman’s novel, A Man Called Ove, authentically devised for cinema by Hannes Holm, is a Swedish portrayal of the Swedish novel, but has many familiar aspects to previous films about grumpy old men from Hollywood and elsewhere. Holm’s adaptation is classically Scandinavian in style and pace, which gives it a more conceivable structure but often lack in interest also, and provide an odd plot for what is meant to be a “feel-good black comedy.”
Fifty-nine year old Ove is the neighbourhood’s grumpy man who for several years earlier was deposed as president of the condominium association, but he could not give a damn about being deposed and therefore keeps looking over the neighborhood with an iron fist. However, when pregnant Parvaneh and her family moves into the terraced house opposite and accidentally backs into Ove’s mailbox it turns out to be a surprisingly warm friendship. This ill-tempered, isolated retiree who spends his days visiting his wife’s grave, starts again to find meaning in life, as this friendship blossoms. It’s an age old story we’ve seen time and time again be it with Jack Nicholson in As Good As It Gets, the grandfather in UP or Clint Eastwood as Walt Kowalski in Gran Torino.
Whimsical, tiresome, and old this at times has sentimental value that cannot help but jerk at your strings, but that is the only selling point I would throw in, which is craved and not undervalued in these bleak times. Rolf Lassgård does play the character astoundingly and the actress that plays late wife does indeed carry a shining glint about her, which adds a degree of believability to the synopsis. The grade of the film is expectedly de-saturated and the movement of the film has a slowness to it, which adds validity to the cinematic rendering of this bestselling story.
However, the thwarted suicide attempts, the real sadness that surrounds this tale, certainly makes this a darker watch than I was expecting and yet, I struggled to illicit that much feeling for the protagonist in the film. Don’t get me wrong, it’s certainly heart-warming to see his friendship blossom and witness community’s positive ailments to this man’s sadness, but there is something lacking, the references to similar tales and a character somewhat flat, with development requiring tweaking. A film with much potential.
A Man Called Ove runs at The Filmhouse in Edinburgh until 13th July 2017.