It may sound strange, but from a cinema lovers point of view, the Academy Awards are one of the best reasons for living outside the United States. Since in America a film has to have played in US cinemas in order to be nominated, generally all the nominated films only remain on the big screen for a few weeks after the ceremony. (Though the winners may last longer.)
But outside of America said nominated films receive a more staggered release, meaning its far easier to see more of them. In the case of A Man Called Ove, it was released in Sweden in 2015, nominated for the 89th Academy Awards in Feb 2017, and finally released in the U.K. in July.
Here’s hoping the months long wait was worth it!
Ove Lindahl (Rolf Lassgård) is a grumpy old bastard. Having recently lost his wife and his job, he decides to take life into his own hands and commit suicide.
But interfering in his attempts are the new neighbours, the pregnant Iranian immigrant called Parvaneh (Bahar Pars), along with her husband and two children.
As time goes by we learn more about Ove’s past, his relationship to the others who live in his townhouse neighborhood, as well as witnessing his slow journey into social acceptance.
Based on the bestselling novel by Swedish author, Fredrik Backman, A Man Called Ove is a film that, on its face, is not particularly original. An old grumpy retired man gets shown a new way of life by a much younger person? Sounds a bit like Gran Torino, Venus, American Beauty and many, many others. Hell, even Pixar’s Up has the same general idea!
But what raises this film are two aspects: an astounding central performance by Lassgård, as well as a poignant screenplay from writer/director Hannes Holm.
From Lassgård, we witness a man brought to the brink of life, who winds up the world around him with his hate and discourse. But intertwined with such negativity is a thread of sympathy, as we also see a man who has suffered and lost so much that he sees no future.
While Lassgård does well in his own scenes, his work is elevated when we get to flashback to his younger days. There he is played by Filip Berg, a young man who has an oddly astounding resemblance to the British actor, Domhnall Gleeson.
But such performances are built on the strong framework established by the script. While the time spanning scope means there are echoes of Forest Gump; it’s also hard not to be reminded of Slumdog Millionaire. At least in the sense that we see how each event and tragedy in Ove’s youth slowly, but surely shapes him into the man we see haunting the neighbourhood in the present day.
But I would be amiss to avoid talking about the comedy which, while black in nature, nonetheless leads to hilarious situations. Mostly centred around his utter stubbornness in the face of constant infractions of neighbourhood rules; Ove’s bite and wit are more than enough to win over even the most bull-headed of audience members.
While originality may not be its forte, A Man Called Ove is nonetheless a moving and comedic piece about a man trying to retain his humanity in the light of unbelievable tragedy. In the face of 2017’s blockbuster bloat, what else could be more cinematically refreshing?