Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Curmudgeon Returns to the Light

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Curmudgeon Returns to the Light

Article excerpt


At first glance "A Man Called Ove" seems like a Swedish version of the bitter old man roles we've seen from the likes of Paul Newman ("Nobody's Fool") and Jack Nicholson ("About Schmidt").

But really, it's a love story. Not about falling in love, but reclaiming it.

Rolf Lassgard plays Ove, who seemingly lives solely to be a pain- in-the-tuckus, constantly insulting others and holding everyone to his own set of high standards. He's the sort of petty authority figure who has bestowed himself with all sorts of powers, and acts as if this is something everyone has agreed upon.

Wearing the same nondescript cap and coat every day, he trudges around his orderly little village, tugging on locks to make sure they're secure and hollering at the pet owners to keep their furry friends from piddling where they oughtn't. Once upon a time he was chairman of the residents' association, but his position was stripped years ago in a "coup" -- i.e., a democratic election -- and Ove clings to his bitterness like a talisman.

He has worked at the train depot for 43 years, following in his late father's footsteps. When two young managers offer to transition him to a training program for older workers to acquire new skills, Ove cuts to the chase: Why don't I just get up right now and leave, and make it simpler for all of us?

At age 59, Ove does not suffer fools -- a description he believes applies to virtually everyone but him.

Directed and written by Hannes Holm from the novel by Fredrik Backman, "A Man Called Ove" starts out in a very dark place and gradually moves toward the light. We sense the change and embrace it, so Ove's evolution feels natural rather than compulsory.

After losing his job, Ove resolves to kill himself. His beloved wife, Sonja (a vibrant Ida Engvoll), passed away six months ago and with her his only connection to the happier things in life. Like many men his age and class, Ove is a hands-on sort who can fix almost anything and defines himself by his usefulness; he leaned on Sonja to be his connection to the community.

He tries suicide by hanging, but is interrupted by a new family moving in across the street. …

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