“A Man Called Ove” starts out gruff and unlikable and more than a bit stereotypical. Then it opens up and becomes something of an epic about ordinary life, touching, funny and engrossing.
Not that you ever doubt where “A Man Called Ove” is going, but it gets there with wondrous detail and earned sentiment. It’s odd to call a movie about a man intent on suicide heart-warming, but then this is a decidedly odd, and good, movie.
The Swedish Ove (Rolf Lassgard) is a grouchy fussbudget when we meet him, constantly making sure that all the people in his gated community follow the rules — no driving allowed, who does that stray cat belong to, get your dog off that lawn, untended bicycles will be locked up. Then he gets even grumpier when he’s laid off from the factory where he’s spent decades as an engineer.
Which means he’s in no mood when Parvaneh (Bahar Pahs), a pregnant Iranian refugee, and her Swedish husband move into the house next door with their kids. And right there you get the gist of this thing: Ove will come around to loving this family, which will bring out the very hidden best in him.
True, but first Ove will try to kill himself, again and again. Why? Because his beloved wife, Sonja, died six months ago. And each time Ove hovers on the brink of death he will think back over his life, and on his long relationship with Sonja (the dazzling Ida Engvoll, who literally elevates the movie from her first appearance).
As Ove’s memories bring out the often strange, sometimes tragic turns of his life, the old man becomes a more fully formed character and the film takes on a sweeping nature, even though nothing all that extraordinary is going on. “A Man Called Ove” instead finds the extraordinary in the ordinary pulse of life.
Tom Long is a longtime culture critic.
‘A Man Called Ove’
Rated PG-13 for thematic content, some disturbing images, and language
Running time: 116 minutes