Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB. Sweden, 2015. xTre Vänner Produktion AB, Film i Vast, Nordisk Film, Fantefilm, Nordsvensk Filmunderhallning, Sveriges Television. Screenplay by Hannes Holm, based on the novel by Fredrik Backman. Cinematography by Goran Hallberg. Produced by Annica Bellander, Nicklas Wikstrom Nicastro. Music by Gaute Storaas. Production Design by Jan Olof Agren. Costume Design by Camilla Olai Lindblom. Film Editing by Fredrik Morheden. Academy Awards 2016.
A peaceful suburban community has a resident grump in its midst, the irascible and quick-tempered Ove (Rolf Lassgård), who makes sure cars don’t drive through the neighbourhood’s small roads and screams at the woman whose dog annoys him. When a pleasant oaf and his sharp, beautiful Iranian wife move in next door, they and their charming children insinuate themselves into Ove’s life and ruin his retirement plans: every time he tries to commit suicide and end his miserable existence, a doorbell rings or a crisis happens outside his window. As Ove softens up thanks to his genuinely touching friendship with the heavily pregnant woman next door, we flash back to his relationship with his late wife and the romance that gave him everything and left him feeling like he had nothing when it was over. Funny, tragic and endlessly enjoyable, this perfectly pitched heartwarmer works on all levels thanks to characters who have enough conflicts that are only the least bit manipulative. Ove’s booming temper tantrums are genuinely upsetting and make his moments of connection with those around him that much more forgiveable, while learning about his beautiful partner (played with eternal charm by Ida Engvoll) gives the film such a deep root of tenderness thanks to how moving their relationship is. Lassgard, in excellent aging makeup that is barely noticeable, is as compelling as he is heartbreaking, calibrated beautifully against the low-key sweetness of Filip Berg as his younger self, while Bahar Pars as the the plucky Parvaneh is one of the film’s greatest treasures. The film is so endearing that its few plot mishaps are easily forgiven: a troubled young man lodging with Ove is dropped without explanation, while the villainy of Johan Widerberg‘s “white shirt” nursing home official is a bit too conveniently used for resolution, but you will have forgotten these trifles by the time the credits roll. It doesn’t rewrite the book on audience pleasing melodrama, but it makes as good a case for them as you could get.