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A Man Called Ove (2015)

CRUMBLIES…. 5 crumblies

I loved this! Absolutely loved it. You want a dark, funny, tragic and uplifting two hours with limited schmaltz and the company of a growly old sod with a kind heart and a short fuse? Come stare at a mirror with old Jack or slap on A Man Called Ove. It is lovely.

Got that?

Lovely. Get M&S to send a party-pack and settle down for something special.

This is such a good film that the Guardian were snarky about it while the rest of the world gave it plaudits. Yup: the up-tight metroplods running showy ‘commentator’ careers in Primrose Hill missed the point. It’s that good… (Oh, go on, then…)

So: the story. Ove is nearly sixty. He lost his wife six months ago and is lost in anger at the pettiness of the world. Which is a tad two-faced, because he’s no amateur authoritarian himself, yelling the cheerless rules of his housing association place (um…it’s Swedish, so…gated community, perhaps) to anyone who comes near.  He is isolated and attempting suicide every few days. He so wants to join his wife in the cemetery.

Poor Ove. As he slumps off the stool with a rope round his throat, or gobbles up the fumes in his garage, he is consumed with beautifully-made flashbacks to a stunning loss, an accidental meeting on a train, the proper lovingness of his wife (Ida Engvoll pitching perfect shots to Filip Berg as the younger Ove) and  everything the last few months have ripped from him. And this all works with a warmly-bleak (oh yes) comic eye.

The suicide attempts are like washing up. They frame the bleakness of grief and forced retirement. However, each is interrupted by something that teases out the kindness beneath Ove’s exterior. Rolf Lassgård shines as the roaring sourpuss. He wears Ove’s heart in blustering, bellowing anger and lets it peak out as the world comes nearer. Hell, he even saves a life in a spectacularly bad temper.

And then a new family arrives in the village-community-place-thing. The husband is a local “loser”, the woman a survivor from Iran (Bahar Pars is instantly the companionable intrusion Ove needs), and their offspring the grandchildren that should have been. Their presence, along with a rufty-tufty cat with a cool stare, batter down Ove’s walls and let him find warmth in the world that so angers him.

Enough of the plot. It’s simple – obvious, even – but you will be so pulled in by the characterisation on show that the film will fly by.  Old Jack spent the first hour laughing and the last one crying.  Old folk, this is about us. If you are tired and alone, there is hope, however deeply you have lost.

Huzzah to Hannes Holm for writing and directing this. Huzzah to Frederik Backman for the book that triggered it. Special huzzahs to Lassgård and cast-mates. They’ve made the mundanity and awfulness of late middle-age accessible, sad and joyous.

Go rent A Man Called Ove at iTunes or Amazon. Enjoy it before the Tom Hanks remake changes things…

It’s the best film I’ve seen this year.

So there.

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