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Film review: A Man Called Ove – in Swedish nod to It’s a Wonderful Life, suicidal man finds life’s meanings

Hannes Holm’s film, nominated for two Academy Awards, explores the inner workings of an elderly curmudgeon who wants to end it all yet finds an unlikely saviour

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 24 May, 2017, 7:03am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 24 May, 2017, 7:03am

3.5/5 stars

Nominated for Oscars this year for best foreign language film and best make-up and hairstyling, A Man Called Ove is Sweden’s answer to Frank Capra’s Yuletide classic It’s a Wonderful Life, as a curmudgeonly widower (Rolf Lassgård) reminisces about his long, eventful life through a series of botched suicide attempts.

Harbouring grievances against all corners of society, Ove has resigned himself to following his recently departed wife Sonja (Ida Engvoll) into the hereafter, only to be interrupted each time by his bothersome neighbours.

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Most notable among these is Parvaneh (Bahar Pars), a heavily pregnant Iranian woman who moves in next door with her family and insists on becoming part of Ove’s life. While this initially proves distressing, an unlikely friendship develops between the two, with Parveneh adopting the role of Clarence’s affable angel from the Capra film, as Ove’s unlikely guide towards possible redemption.

As a young man, Ove (played in flashback by Filip Berg) had a promising future, an idyllic marriage with Sonja, and playful rivalry with best friend Rune (Börje Lundberg), but over time, tragedy and the persistent interference of bureaucratic “white shirts” have taken their toll on Ove.

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Based on the novel by Fredrik Backman, Hannes Holm’s film unfolds in mostly predictable fashion, but the charismatic performances ensure that Ove always remains sympathetic, and that his persistent enforcement of arbitrary neighbourhood regulations are recognised as a last-ditch cry for help.

Integral to the film’s success is Ove’s relationship with Parvaneh, which, wisely, is never politicised but rather introduces a fresh perspective to his increasingly internalised existence that might just save his life.

A Man Called Ove opens on May 25

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