“A Man Called Ove” (Sweden)

“A Man Called Ove” (Sweden)
Directed by Hannes Holm

a-man-called-ove-2My parents…now happily married for over 63 years…began pestering me to see this film over two weeks ago. Knowing little about it, other than it is Sweden’s offering for the Foreign Language Oscar, I was finally able to see it last night, albeit at an art house in a distant western suburb of Chicago. I can see why my folks loved it. In fact, the screening I was at boasted no less than a half dozen or so couples well past their AARP confirmation dates. It is a lovingly, yet irreverently, told story about growing old with that one true love…and how the loss of the “better half” can turn one in to something they weren’t previously – something more bitter, pessimistic and curmudgeonly. In this manner, “Ove” succeeds quite well. The love feels real and important, even if the world of the film is mildly zany.

But I didn’t particularly connect with it, which might have something to do with the fact that I have maintained my bachelor status throughout the entirety of my fifty two years. I have never stumbled upon the one true love the film asks us to believe in. However, I have seen many films about the same topic that utterly destroyed me, so I’m left wondering if my dispassionate experience of the film had more to do with the interminable first act. Within its boundaries, the main character’s intentions were repeated so often, I think I just got a little bored. Which isn’t to say there wasn’t a mighty fine payoff. I sufficiently teared up during the film’s third act and absolutely recognized the density of Ove and Sonja’s love – a love that closely resembles that of my parents. I just wish it had arrived there a little sooner.

This is through no fault of the terrific cast. Rolf Lassgård, as the elder Ove, is teriffic. Starkly one dimensional in the film’s first act, he manages to show all the shades of the rainbow later on as the devastated, angry and utterly committed widower. Filip Berg, as the younger Ove, is his perfect complement…perfectly filling in the gaps with the excitement of his stoic, but starry eyed, courtship. Ida Engvoll, as his wife, is stunning and filled with the optimism necessary to make the relationship believable. However, the film’s minor characters don’t fare quite as well. They’re not quirky enough to satisfy the script, or, perhaps, simply try too hard. None more so than Bahar Pars, as Ove’s new neighbor, whose presence must make Ove seem more human. It’s not that she is bad. But there are scenes where her whimsy feels artificial – noticeably so.

The score, on the other hand, is lovely. A bit too reminiscent of  Johannsson’s “Theory of Everything” maybe, but you could do a WHOLE lot worse than aping those compositions. Unfortunately, the score has merely ten tracks, thus Holm goes back to the well with two of them so many times, they get old…at least they did for me…and it is one of the reasons I had such a hard time with the repetitive first act. On its own, however, it’s a fine collection of film music.

“A Man Called Ove” is, without a doubt, a terrific love story. And my picking of nits aside, it’s one of the better date movies I’ve seen come down the pike in a bit, even while it doesn’t move with enough zest to be a great film. But what do I know? The closest thing I have to a long term relationship is the dog sleeping next to me on the couch as I write this. My folks are probably a much better judge of this film’s worth.

Now if they just knew what a blog is.

Written on 11/18/2016

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