‘A Man Called Ove’ review: finds the real meaning of community

3rd July 2017

Ove Lindahl has laid out the plastic sheeting, set up the stool and even tied the noose. He has lost his job, his wife and now his attempt at suicide has failed, “It’s not as easy as you may think” he says to his wife’s tombstone as he lays roses out and neatens the grave. Played by the talented Rolf Lassgard, Ove Lindahl is a man who is angry at life and feeling very alone.
We have Parvaneh (Bahar Pars) to blame, or thank, for his failed suicide attempt. When her and her husband arrived they dared to drive down the pedestrianised road, which Ove has policed for decades. He steps down from his stool to go and tell them that they cannot drive their car here with some annoyance. Over his dead body, one might say.

Ove and Parvaneh are polar opposites at face value. Ove is grumpy, cold and disciplined. While Parvaneh is positive, cheerful and pragmatic. But she immediately decides that she wants to befriend the cantankerous old man.

Over the course of the film we come to know a lot about Ove and how he developed his quirky persona. We follow his early days wherein his Father instilled his values and his ideas of right and wrong, how he would later become a train-cleaner and how he met the love of his life, Sonja (Ida Engvoll). It becomes clear that his rather black and white outlook on life is rooted in the best of intentions. He has lost so much and endured poverty and heartbreak.

With each attempt at suicide, it becomes more and more clear that Ove’s attempts are in vain, from being disturbed by Parvaneh who needs a lift to the hospital to the doorbell ringing from “one of those gays” who has been kicked out from home and now needs somewhere to stay.
Parvaneh, an immigrant from Iran brings her saffron infused rice and cheerful pair of girls into Ove’s life. Parvaneh seemingly forces herself onto Ove, as she is not willing to take no for an answer. Throughout the film, Ove and Parvaneh have very beautifully scripted dialogues wherein the sub-themes are brought to the surface more clearly.

One such happens when while teaching Parvaneh to drive she panics and stalls the car to which Ove responds, “Now listen to me, you have given birth twice, soon three times. You have come from Iran and escaped war and misery; you have learnt a new language, got an education and married a loser. So you will have no problems learning how to drive. We are not talking brain surgery here.”

It is amazing, how so often we become so used to loneliness we can’t recognize when someone is there, trying to come in. Ove has been a loner for so much of his life, he allowed himself to be consumed by his love for Sonja, in an attempt to avoid dealing with the sadness and anger he pent up inside, Parvaneh however sees this and even notes, “I’ve never met Sonja, and I am sure she was wonderful but you have made her a Saint. I think she would rather be a regular human, a very wonderful but regular Sonja.”
Ove is a man who has lost himself to the anger; he has allowed his boyish smile to become marred by a disgruntled frown. He has overcome hardships so many times before, but he now blames himself and in doing so punishes himself on a daily basis. He has locked himself away, as Sonja says in the film, “Either we die or we live” and he has stopped living, long before he decided to take his life.

A Man Called Ove is about the real meaning of community. It’s not about neighbours or community associations, but about people. It is about those bonds we so often take for granted, the bonds that transcend, race, sexual orientation and even what car you drive. It is about coming together in spite of all these things, not for selfish gain but because we all understand one simple thing, “No one copes on their own, no one!”
Words by Matthew Hoy
A Man Called Ove is out in cinemas on June 30, 2017

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