With less than two weeks until the Academy Awards, the race to take in all the nominated films is at a fever pitch right now. For me, some of the films I find myself last to finish off are the Best Foreign category, but something that is consistent with these groups of movies is that they are some of the best that cinema has to offer. I move down the list of five, ofwhich I have seen the top tier contenders, Toni Erdmann and The Salesman, to Swede’s nominee, A Man Called Ove, another solid gem. I feel like I say this every year but the most important selections are the international ones.
A Man Called Ove is very much a character-centric film following our titular man, Ove, a constantly grieving widower. He spends his days visiting his wife’s grave (where he vents his frustrations), and enforcing the neighbourhood rules and regulations. This would be alright if he did it in a friendly manner, which is the opposite of how Ove operates, cantankerously dishing out abuse in the name of bylaw cooperation and even going as far as threatening small dogs for their bowel movements. This all hides what Ove does in the comfort of his own home as he is constantly trying to end his own life to join his wife on the other side. When he gets new neighbors moving in, Ove, against his own nature, starts to gravitate towards the pregnant mother, forming an odd friendship.
Playing the lead role, actor Rolf Lassgård has an incredible ability to frustrate you as a completely obtuse character but also draw you into caring for what he’s going through. As the story develops, Ove’s history opens up and you start to see the shaping of the old man he has become. At the heart of it all is Sonja, the bubbly woman full of life and soul who stole his heart who Ove reminisces about as he tries to end his life. Every time he gets into the suicide process, this new neighbor family interrupts him, tearing him away from his memories and forcing him to interact with a new group.
At the center of this film, the story is about dealing with loneliness. Ove is unable to cope with the loss of who he believes is the only person that could stand to be in his company and the only person who truly made him feel any of the light of life. As the story deepens, we see when and how deep he started to fall into his pit of solitude, which is perfectly illustrated by writer and director Hannes Holm, who adapts this from the novel of the same name. The story is slight, self-contained but features a deeper quality that North American introspective dramas seem to lack, a true and human feeling core. Nothing about A Man Called Ove feels contrived or place just to help a limping story along. This is the real deal and very deserving of a place at the top of 2016. 4.5/5