Wednesday, 5 October 2016

A Man Called Ove (EIFF 6)

This sad, tragic Swedish film about a man making a number of attempts to commit suicide so he can join his recently-deceased wife is one of the funniest films I have seen in a long time.

A Man Called Ove, written and directed by Hannes Holm, stars Rolf Lassgård as the 59-year-old Ove, who gets laid off from his job of 43 years and is forced to spend his days in the condo community where he (and, until recently, his wife) has lived for decades. The sullen angry Ove is the self-appointed rule-enforcer of the condo community, making sure no one drives on the narrow roads separating the community’s small houses (no driving allowed), among other things. With a noose around his neck, Ove is about to kick over the footstool beneath him when he sees a car backing down the road in front of his window. Furious, he runs outside just in time to watch his new neighbour back into his mailbox. 

Thus begins a relationship with one of his neighbours (an Iranian immigrant named Parvaneh, played by Bahar Pars) which will repeatedly frustrate Ove’s suicide attempts. During those attempts, we see flashbacks of Ove’s life that explain at least some of his constant anger and frustration at the ‘idiots’ (especially the terrible ‘whiteshirts') that haunt his daily life. 

A Man Called Ove doesn’t stand out for its cinematography or score. And while the writing is often sharp, critics correctly accuse the film of being too contrived and emotionally manipulative. And this is by no means an original story - we’ve seen the grumpy old man tale told many times.  But I have never seen that story told as well as this, and the manipulation is a work of art. With its wry northern European humour, its not untypical behaviour (for northern Europe), its inventive structure and the brilliant pitch-perfect performance by Lassgård, A Man Called Ove is one of the best films I have seen this year (the similarities between this film and I, Daniel Blake, my other EIFF favourite, are eerie). 

This highly entertaining and moving story about love, friendship and community gets a solid ****. My mug is up and I recommend it highly to all. Don’t miss it.

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