Thursday, October 20, 2016

This grouchy Swede has some heart

Swedish director Hannes Holm focuses on one of the world's great grouches in A Man Called Ove, a movie that turns a gruff and demanding character into a man with a big heart -- both metaphorically and literally. Personal redemption isn't exactly a novel twist for a story, but Holm adds enough ingratiating charm to keep a familiar tale on track. Adopting what presumably is intended as an oddball storytelling technique, Holm reveals Ove's life in flashbacks that occur during the 59-year-old widower's frequent attempts at suicide. Ove slowly recovers his humanity with help from a new neighbor (Bahar Pars), a pregnant Persian immigrant woman. We also learn that Ove's late wife (Ida Engvoll in flashbacks) was a teacher known for getting the best from her students. A love story and an ode to the redemptive powers of human connection, A Man Called Ove gains gravity from Rolf Lassgard's performance as Ove, the kind of fellow who'd sever a long-term friendship over a pal's choice of a car (a Volvo over a Saab). Ove's exacting demands on the tiny community in which he lives shield him from feelings he has no desire to face. A Man Called Ove may not make for adventurous film viewing, but it proves a pleasant enough diversion about a man who spends most of his time being as unpleasant as possible.

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