A Man Called Ove

Jacob Richardson | 29/03/2017

Heart-warming and hilarious, A Man Called Ove transcends language barriers to speak straight to our hearts.

Based on Frederick Backman’s best-selling novel, A Man Called Ove chronicles the life story of Ove – a cantankerous old Swede who, upon being fired from his job at the train yard, decides to take his own life in order to join his recently departed wife. Sadly for Ove, he finds suicide harder to achieve then expected, and thus ensues a film filled with humour, flashbacks to his earlier days, and sorrow. It is a simply story, with little embellishment.


There are no outlandish occurrences, no incomprehensible twists and no laughable romantic interests. The film is all the better for it. Where this film really sets itself apart is in the telling of the story, for while it may be simple it is beautifully told. Director Hannes Holm paces the story to perfection. Enough exposition is delivered in intricate and subtle ways early in the film that we don’t feel like we are being pandered to, but enough is held back that, when Ove describes a tragedy through narration, it feels earned.


Holm is helped by some beautiful cinematographic work from Goran Hallberg and some excellent performances; particularly from Rolf Lassgard as the titular character himself. He brings a humanity and compassion to the grouchy character that not only lends itself to humour but also great emotion. It should be mentioned that the film is very, very funny. The old man out of place in a new world trope has been done before, but Holm and Lassgard give Ove a certain sarcastic wit that makes his portrayal feel fresh. It’s a welcome addition, because whenever the plot slows the movie is propelled forward through Ove’s humour.


Ultimately, A Man Called Ove presents a simple premise extremely well, with strong performances (particularly from Ove himself), a funny, well written script and confident, well-paced and visually ambitious direction. It is a beautiful example of Swedish cinema, and makes a strong case for foreign comedies.


A Man Called Ove is a delight; funny, charming and emotionally moving, it is a perfect example of how to turn a simple concept into a fresh and moving film.