A Swedish film that earned popularity at home, “A Man Called Ove” is a story of the embittered, 59-year-old Ove, who, as we suspect from the start, will turn out to be a very decent human being. Based on a novel by Fredrik Backman, it has been directed by Hannes Holm, who also wrote the screenplay. Starring as Ove is Rolf Lassgård, who gives an outstanding performance that illuminates the various facets of Ove’s personality.
The film meshes present and past as the method of revealing what makes the man tick. When we first meet him, Ove is an ogre in his suburban neighborhood. He polices the area and picks on everyone. He holds a grudge for being kicked out as president of the neighborhood association. He has also been downsized from the railroad job that he has held for 40 years, which leaves him further at sea.
But the greater pain is the recent death of his wife. He feels there is nothing left to live for, and there is dark comedy in his failed attempts at suicide. What ultimately rescues him is an odd encounter with the family next door-- the accidental backing of the family car into his mailbox.
Thus begins a friendship that will add purpose to Ove’s existence as he gradually abandons his curmudgeon stance and finds ways to relate to other human beings, which allows his humanity to surface in fresh ways.
The story, of course, is heartwarming. What helps is to see the thread of Ove’s life via the flashbacks that flesh out how he arrived at the point where he is, and by the end of the film we have fixed in our minds the sympathetic portrait of man. A Music Box Films release. Reviewed September 30, 2016.