A Man Called Ove is no ordinary sob story. It’s powered by melancholy, fuelled with ancient ambitions and, like those centuries-old afflictions, the film surrenders us at rival gates and employs an indispensable elasticity to traverse enemy territories along a polarized continuum of mirth and remorse. The tale and its narrative arc rehearse nordic Sagas. A jätte (giant) – maltreated, introspective and near mute – is stripped clean. No mother, no father, no home…
And yet the gentle behemoth – displaced and pursued by Lilliputian-like white shirts – is unbound by a young woman’s kindness and his own coarse desire to know her. As they rise up together and confront the beast lurking inside him their coupling forges a shield of shared and unperturbable destiny.
When Fortuna refuses their wilfulness and layers on pain and suffering, Ove retreats to yesteryear. Fury lifts him from slumber and anger announces his arrival. Villagers and livestock flee in Ove’s presence while we, the audience, entrench and extend his ill-tempered underdog status with distant admiration. Between the tears and the laughter Ove’s voice weakens as he anticipates and animates a pernicious decline.
If this were a modern tale of nihilistic ageists and personal health information breaches, we should say, “Poor Ove.” But Ove’s world is positively medieval. In it live sprites and fairies, thralls and wastrels, a Persian Venus, a Saab!
The Saab’s magick is internal combustion, an explosive metaphor that serves as automotive and jailer. Saabs provide a thread of shape shifting continuity, coded in colours and models, revved up with adolescent memories, and powered by incantations of engineering superiority.
We soon realize that having four-on-the-floor is Ove’s bane. Like the diesel locomotive that stops his father in its tracks and the diesel coach that neatly fails his beloved, the gassy interlopers that threaten the Estate’s walkways chain him with miscalculations and self-loathing.
Potent though the Saab may be the giant’s attachment to assembly line enchantments is broken by Parveneh, a saffron-wielding sorceress. She, floating above petty provincial judgements and lacking masculine temperaments at home, fearlessly walks into Ove’s fat palm and coaxes driving spells from a gruff, damaged soul.
Reluctantly and methodically Ove teaches her to control the beast. And as she learns to drive, Parveneh regards and brightens Ove’s aura. Ove’s bark and predictability diminish. His generosity flowers. His graveside habits change. Then one evening while Venus retreats from the Swedish sky and fresh snow dusts his walk, Ove’s mortal coil unwinds.
A Man Called Ove, plucks vintage heart strings. It engages our reptilian brain while provoking the otherworldliness of civilizing influences. It seizes the overwrought and offsets their grief with an oddly engaging and instrumental rationality. The film speaks to the good and bad, the best and beastly among us. It’s a story cast within millennial rather than generational timeframes and it summons quite a thought: healing takes a long time.
This one-in-a-million Swedish suburban saga considers unlucky lives by rehearsing the minor falls and major lifts of neighbourly behaviour. The film shows that no matter how foreign, alone, or oafish one might be, the milk of human kindness is a powerful potion. It bathes wounds, dissolves barriers, and clarifies destinies.