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Film review: "A Man Called Ove" 

Adapted by director Hannes Holm from a best-selling novel by Fredrik Backman, the crowd-pleasing Swedish dramedy "A Man Called Ove" revolves around Ove (the delightful Rolf Lassgård), a curmudgeonly old man who rules over his suburban neighborhood with an iron fist. Head of the neighborhood association until his neighbors voted him out, Ove makes his daily rounds, heckling everyone within earshot over any perceived infractions to the community bylaws, no matter how small. Although Ove's a stickler for the rules, he fosters a deep-seated hatred of bureaucracy and the so-called "white shirts" who enforce it.

Fairly early on, we learn that Ove is still privately mourning the passing of his beloved wife, Sonja (Ida Engvoll) whose absence has left an emptiness in his life that he has no intention of replacing.

Ove has resolved himself to suicide in order to reunite with her, but his attempts to off himself keep getting interrupted, and as one character puts it, he's a miserable failure at dying. Periodically, we see flashbacks filling in Ove's life (where he's portrayed by Filip Berg as a young man and Viktor Baagoe as a boy), showing us the defining events that shaped him into the man he eventually became.

The arrival of a new neighbor, the pregnant Parvaneh (Bahar Pars), along with her husband and two young daughters, marks a turning point for the aging man. Something about Parvaneh's no-nonsense demeanor breaks through Ove's hardened shell, and he finds himself defenseless in saying no to her frequent requests for assistance. Much to his dismay, he continues to find himself entangled in the affairs of his neighbors, filling up his time with a new purpose, whether he wants one or not.

There's no shortage of stories about grumpy old men and the well-meaning strangers who bring out the warm, gooey center at the heart of their existence, and "A Man Called Ove" never attempts to break the mold. But the film avoids coming across as overly manipulative thanks to a persistent streak of dark humor and strong performances from its cast -- Lassgård in particular -- as it builds to a satisfying and tear-jerking conclusion.


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