Sweden Has Condo Commandos Too
By Skip Sheffield
In America, “A Man Called Ove” would be called a condo commando.
Ove (Rolf Lassgard) is a bitter 59-year-old Swedish widower whose position as former block association president enables him to make life miserable for all around him. “Ove,” based on Fredrik Backman’s novel and directed by Hannes Holm, is the official Swedish selection for this year's Academy Awards.
Fifty-nine is not really that old, but life has beaten Ove down. He has lost his longtime job with the railroad. The death of his wife Sonja (Ida Engvoll) was the final straw in his disillusionment. Every day Ove puts flowers on Sonja’s grave, then reacts with a vengeance against any infraction of block association rules. A new couple moves in with their two daughters, and promptly flattens Ove’s mail box with their car. It’s not an auspicious introduction. Making matters worse is the pregnant mother, Parvaneh (Bahar Pars) is Persian (Iranian) and the father Patrick (Tobias Almborg) is Swedish. Ove was brought up to believe things should be a certain way. We see his development through flashbacks as a young Ove (Filip Berg).
“A Man Called Ove” is a parable of coexistence in a fractured, changing world. In what amounts to a dark running gag, Ove is repeatedly interrupted attempting to hang himself. If you guess Parvanah and her charming girls will bring new life to Ove, you guessed right. Ove even adopts a stray cat, though he loathes felines. He saves a man’s life, then refuses to take any credit for his heroism.
Rolf Lassgard is a Swedish actor whose mastery transcends all languages. The dialogue is Swedish, with English subtitles, but they are hardly necessary, as the actions and emotions are so well-expressed. Yes the story is predictable, yet it is still uplifting. If you want to feel a little better about the world, see this movie.