A Man called ove
REVIEW BY CAOLAINN DALY
A Man Called Ove is a pleasing but frustrating film. Many of the elements that made the novel a joy are present but pacing issues and peculiar downsizing from the novel will leave you warmed but perhaps not completely satisfied.
The film follows Ove (pronounced Ooh-Vuh), who could be characterised as the quintessential grumpy old man who in fact has a heart of gold. He lives in a completely pedestrianised neighbourhood where he oversees the neighbourhood watch. He insists he can buy one set of flowers at half price because it says buy one get one free. He is a Saab fanatic and denounces all other makes of car.
Above everything he misses his wife, Sonja (Ida Engvoll), who passed away half a year previously. During the film he frequently tries to take his own life but someone or something always opportunely intervenes. On one of these occasions it is a new neighbourhood family who accidentally drive over his postbox. Parvaneh (Bahar Pars), the mother of the family befriends Ove and so begins a seemingly unrequited kinship of sorts. Pars is impressive at providing a character who can spar toe-to-toe with Ove’s fiery character, making for some terrific on-screen chemistry.
The film plays out in the present and flashes back frequently to the best and worst times of Ove’s life, and his respective relationships with his wife and father. This works particularly well because of the two performances of Ove. Rolf Hasgaard plays present Ove masterfully and conjures up a cocktail of humour and sadness, while past Ove, played by Filip Berg, does a wonderful job at creating a character who is during his formative moments innocent and wide-eyed, overtly serious These to work together to effectively put the pieces of Ove together and give the character enormous texture. One informs the other and the other responds accordingly. Ove makes remittances for past mistakes and learns to have a friend. The film as a whole veers on the right side of sentimental. It is honest, heart-warming, and knows when to be humorous and when to be mellow.
The film is somewhat let down by the final act, or the lack thereof. It thrives on its expository moments and its character development and as such the rushed ending short-changes itself. It finishes on a soft landing; it will leave you feeling appreciative of it but does not do justice to the film that just preceded it. This is made more frustrating when considering that certain subplots of the book are included half-heartedly, with elements of them chosen almost at random and incongruously to the rest of the film. Too much is removed from the source material that the essence or even the reason the subplots exist isn’t there.
A Man Called Ove is a touching story that partly lets itself down by peculiar pacing, but it can only let itself down because the bulk of it is quite exquisite.