“People are people. Don’t be afraid of them.”

— William Saroyan, The Human Comedy

With winter approaching and all the stress that comes with it, not to mention a presidential election, we need to sit back and find a smile, hopefully a laugh.

Now with politics sucking up all the oxygen in the fall air, we are given an antidote to the political poison and a chance to enjoy a truly lovely film full of charm and hope with characters who mirror our own lives and neighbors.

We’ve been given a rare gem of a comedy/drama in “A Man Called Ove,” based on Swedish writer Fredrik Backman’s 2012 best seller (40 weeks on the New York Times best seller list), opening this week.

“Ove” is a Swedish import lathered with that typical Scandinavian dry humor, sentimental charm and beguiling characters.


Fifty-nine year old Ove (a terrific Rolf Lassgard) appears to us first as the angry old man, the “get off my lawn” guy, but of course, like Clint Eastwood’s stereotype in “Grand Torino,” we know a heart beats in Ove’s sweatered chest.

Our crotchety Scandinavian is a widowed railroad supervisor and former head of his condo’s residents association who was deposed by his best friend, who sadly has since had a stroke.

Ove seizes the chance to take back control and proceeds once again to drive his neighbors crazy with his obsessive-compulsive insistence on rules.

Ove is, as expected, a sensitive old-school man wounded by the loss of his beloved wife, Sonja (a gorgeous Ida Engvoll), whose grave he visits daily with fresh flowers to chat. Slowly, through flashbacks, we get to know her and through the work of actor Engvoll understand Ove’s passion and heartbreaking loss.

Ove is forced to retire and face an empty house full of memories with no job to go to and nothing but endless days and nights. At the end of one day, he dresses in his Sunday best and proceeds to hang himself with a piece of blue rope from the living room ceiling. It fails. He tries again, it breaks.

In a kind of Monsieur Hulot or Monty Python comedy sequence, hampered by constant interruptions, he will try this over and over by hanging, shotgun and asphyxiation in his car.


Each time he is interrupted by a noise in the street, a doorbell, a knock on the door, a prowling cat or playing children.

In the car scene he momentarily lapses into a memory fog, a device that reveals to us in a series of flashbacks the young, sensitive Ove as a boy and a young man.

When Ove finally gives up on departing life, life itself takes control and offers complications and unexpected joy.

A happy couple with three children, Patrick (Tobias Almborg) and his sweet, pregnant Iranian wife, Parvaneh (Bahar Pars), move in next door, plaguing Ove with unwanted love and kindness, offers of cooked Iranian dinners, and a stray Persian cat who adopts our grumpy soon-to-be reluctant grandfather, teacher and driving instructor for Parvaneh.

Yes, cliches pop up, but with lots of heart tugs. There are laughs here big and small, heart break, warmth and tenderness, all the ingredients of what may be a Best Foreign Film award.

“A Man called Ove” is an example of what the great William Saroyan called “The Human Comedy,” and if ever one was needed, it’s now.

J.P. Devine is a former stage and screen actor.

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