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A Man Called Ove

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Nominated for Best Foreign Language Film (Sweden) at the 89th Annual Academy Awards

Nominated for Best Makeup and Hairstyling at the 89th Annual Academy Awards

Ugh. File under the “irascible old man loses a loved one, and then is forced to find joy again when kids move into his neighborhood” section. Honestly, the foreign films come Oscar time, are getting just as weepy and sentimental as the American nominees. No easy feat. There are some worthy things in this film to make it borderline recommendable. But on any given day, I may have been too cranky to even bestow that much leeway. Believe me, there are no real surprises or revelations in this Swedish import with English subtitles. It simply connects the dots from ‘A’ to ‘B’ to ‘C’ and so on.  And did I say there are cute kids?

Ove (Rolf Lassgard…strong) is a 59-year-old recently widowed man, living in a townhouse complex. He’s also worked at a railroad job for decades, and he’s just been removed from his position too. Depressed, lonely, and suicidal, Ove still lords over his gated community as the appointed prefect. You see, grumpy, crusty Ove, has a reputation for being a stickler for the rules. So, when a young couple with children move next door, his various attempts at taking his own life are thwarted, as he comes out of his funk long enough to battle to enforce the association’s strict codes. Along the way, we experience flashbacks to a younger Ove (a very good Filip Berg), and his eventual romance with his charming wife, Sonja (Ida Engvoll).

This film was directed and written by Hannes Holm, and it’s based on Fredrik Backman’s popular book of the same name. I see no reason to ever read that book. The acting saves this just a bit, with the fine performances from all the aforementioned principals, as well as Bahar Pars and Chatarina Larsson, among others. Also, Ove’s attempts to snuff out his existence are played as black comedy, and it occasionally becomes poignant. Other than that it’s the sweet, life-affirming, comfort cinema that your eccentric grandmother sends all of her friends to. You’ll have no doubt from the get-go, that Ove will soften. The biggest conflict the movie takes on, is the civil war of Volvo vs. Saab. Ove declares the winner there, but I won’t ruin it for you. Pleasant enough at times, “A Man Called Ove” plays it much too safe.

Grade:  C+

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