A Man Called Ove (4 stars)

A Man Called Ove

Mordant humour and a feel-good story combine beautifully in Hannes Holm's double Oscar nominee

A massive hit in its native Sweden as well as a double Oscar nominee, writer-director Hannes Holm's adaptation of Fredrik Backman's 2012 novel is a familiar story of a curmudgeon who learns to love life after suffering a bereavement. Yet while the themes are nothing new, A Man Called Ove is consistently delightful in the way it uses the cynicism of a suicidal anti-hero to stave off any potential for over-sentimentality.

Ageing grump Ove Lindahl (Rolf Lassgård) is the self-appointed prefect of a small community whose regular attempts to end his life are interrupted by his new neighbours, notably mouthy Iranian immigrant Parvaneh (Bahar Pars) and her noisy family. Sensing his turmoil, Parvaneh takes the time to get to know Ove, and discovers how he came to meet, treasure and then lose his wife Sonja (Ida Engvoll). Ove has no real desire for anything other than being reunited with Sonja in death, but his increasing awareness of the problems that Parvaneh faces leads him to re-engage with the authority figures antagonising them both.

It's a shamelessly feel-good story, but Holm adopts a wry tone; the abruptly amusing yet horrifying death of Ove's father in a freak locomotive accident is one of many such incidents. This welcome streak of black, anarchic comedy lifts the film towards its heartwarming, predictable conclusion.

Like its central character, A Man Called Ove has a humble, unassuming quality, epitomised by its performances, with Lassgård and Engvoll particularly good. Morals about moving on from the past and embracing new friends might have seemed pat if Holm's film were not so deft in the pithy observations it makes about life's random, too-often cruel nature.

Selected release from Fri 30 Jun.

A Man Called Ove (En man som heter Ove)

  • 4 stars
  • 2015
  • Sweden
  • 1h 56min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Hannes Holm
  • Cast: Rolf Lassgård, Bahar Pars, Zozan Akgün, Tobias Almborg
  • UK release: 30 June 2017

Ove (Lassgård) is an ageing, widowed grump who’s the self-appointed prefect of a small community; his attempts at suicide are continually frustrated by his new neighbours, mouthy Iranian immigrant Parvaneh (Pars) and her family. Shamelessly feelgood, with a welcome streak of black comedy, it’s predictable but heartwarming.