Swedish "Ove" Foregoes Schmaltzy Sentimentality for Genuine, Heartwarming Feels.. ("Movie Monday")

I never had a grandpa--both were gone before I popped out, red-faced and screaming, into the world--which means I don't really know anything about how old men operate. 

In other words, the sum total of what I've gleaned comes from pop culture--hello, books, movies, and TV--and jokes that involve elderly guys saying "Get outta my yard!" a lot. (Basically, the older a man gets, the grouchier he becomes..?)

So, when I sat down to watch "A Man Called Ove" (the 2015 film based on the Fredrik Backman book by the same name), I figured I knew what to expect: a series of hopefully amusing (but most likely forced) situations involving a grumpy old coot, who'd undoubtedly turn into a big ol' teddy bear by the end. 

Okay, kinda... but that doesn't BEGIN to describe "Ove".

Retiree Ove is, as expected, a curmudgeonly older chap (although not that old, this being a film made in Sweden, where adults aren't necessarily expected to work themselves into the grave, unlike America). Life has little meaning left for him, though, following the death of his beloved wife Sonja (whom he secretly longs to join). His waking hours revolve around keeping an eagle eye on his little neighborhood--making the rounds every morning and remaining ever-vigilant for violations (whether egregious or picayune, makes no difference to Ove) of the block association's rules and regulations--and visiting Sonja's grave each day. 

When a new family moves in right across the little lane from his house one day, they have no idea what sort of neighbor will be like. Naturally, they immediately proceed to commit countless breaches in both the block's code of conduct (driving the moving van the wrong way and running over Ove's mailbox), and in Ove's personal one (bringing him home-cooked food as thanks for helping them park the van and an apology for the mailbox).

Try as he might to distance himself from the tiny community (aside from notifying folks for those regulation offenses, of course), though, it seems the community has other plans... most notably, the heavily-pregnant new neighbor, Parvaneh (along with her adorable little girl and less-than-handy hubby), who takes a shine to the Grumpy Old Man. Then there's the old couple down the lane, Rune and Anita, who've lived for as long as Ove has--Rune having once been Ove's good friend, until a falling-out (over something so unexpected and funny that you have to watch to understand) estranged them--who suddenly find themselves in dire straits, for which Anita seeks Ove's help. Finally, there's the stray Ragdoll (yes, Ragdoll, as in only the most beautiful breed of cat in the entire world! [so, I'm biased, lol], who refuses to be shooed away.

And, veeeeeery gradually, Ove's frozen heart begins to thaw (no, that's not a spoiler; indications of same can be found in both Amazon's synopsis and on the DVD case). The real magic of this film isn't the fact Ove is drawn out of his grumpy, lonely shell... it's in how organically that is accomplished. Nothing is forced or irritatingly on-the-nose, here, but is instead allowed the time and space to unfold, believably and meaningfully. 

Brilliantly told via intercuts of flashbacks to Ove and Sonja's early years (including a truly sweet "meet-cute") with present day, the contrast between the joy this man once had and who he has become when we meet him is both beautiful and heartbreaking. (Major shoutouts to the actors portraying older Ove, Rolf Lassgård, in a wonderfully-nuanced performance; younger Ove, Filip Berg, giving a charmingly-awkward take; and young Sonja, the radiant Ida Engvoll, leaving us in not one iota of doubt as to why Ove fell head-over-clumsy-feet for her; as well as neighbor Parvenah, Bahar Pars, giving a lovely portrayal of a genuinely-caring young woman.)

By the end, "A Man Called Ove" had me crying (not that easy a task for a movie)... but I didn't regret One. Single. Tear. shed, because this movie, well... it reached right in and grabbed hold of my heart, giving me all the real, beautiful feels.

Hopefully, if you give it a shot, it'll do the same for you. 


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