“Whatever we do in this life, no one gets out of it alive.” This witty utterance, from a man who’s simply had enough of everything, referring to his own mortality, sets the morbidly fascinating tone of this exclusively brilliant Swedish film.
Ove is a character who has accepted his fate. Life’s portrait has lost its colour, and everyone in it has turned into an “idiot”. Ove wants to commit suicide. But the tender side to death’s ambition is a strong will to reunite with his recently deceased wife. Life began with her presence and ended with her passing. So why go on living? He is also a very ill-tempered and bitter old man. So it doesn’t take long to realise that the odds for living are really not stacked in his favour. That is until a new family arrive in the neighbourhood; a shock at first, but a family with two young daughters brings vital new energy and perspective to Ove’s life. The film turns into a heartwarming story of a man who slowly begins to realise that if we aren’t living as human beings then we might as well be dead (or surrender to death). Ove learns to how to live again.
This is not to say that Ove didn’t once play a more active part in life. The film tactfully cuts back to his childhood and early adulthood to show a graceful person who once fell deeply in love and had a great deal of ambition as an engineer. Ove loves to build things: houses, engines; he’s a man who lives for infrastructure and obeying the way things are done best, which also means you’re a fool if you don’t drive a Saab. It’s seems a stubborn characteristic from a millennial’s viewpoint, but in the tradition of Ove, rules are in place to make the world run more efficiently and therefore life is just better for it. When somebody dares to puncture the system by, for example, driving down the path that should not be driven on, it threatens to not only rupture Ove’s temper, but to destroy his entire equilibrium and cause a mental catastrophe. He’s one of those men whose admirable levels of sensitivity to their way of being allow for an occasional forgiveness toward their equally extreme mannerisms. You’ll certainly need some patience getting to grips with him.
A Man Called Ove is ultimately a microscopic character-study candidly crafted by the director, Hannes Holm. Thankfully, the material and Rolf Lassgard’s performance are both deserved of the time spent. Holm has managed to pick apart every detail of Ove’s world, which becomes more comical beat by beat. It’s an absurd world to most, no doubt about that, but the film reaches a level of uniqueness that all comedy needs in order to flourish. It cannot be defined, but it can be asserted as a miraculous achievement.