If the sad Swedish comedy “A Man Called Ove” accomplishes nothing else, at least it’s taught us the Swedish word for “idiot.”
The title character, a walking/grumping antidote to the world’s stereotype of happy, friendly Swedes, uses it for pretty much everyone in this sentimental stroll down memory lane.
The lady who lets her dog pee on his mailbox? “Dumbon!”
The new Swedish-Persian neighbors who are inept at everything from backing up a car towing a trailer to simple home maintenance?
Volvo drivers (He’s a Saab man, since birth)? “Idiotens.”
Audi drivers? “Four zeroes on the grill, another behind the wheel!”
We meet Ove (Rolf Lassgard) as he’s doing “his rounds” — walking around his subdivision, hassling rule breakers, leaving testy notes.
He’s a martinet, a “nit picky” prickly sort, even at his job with the railroad, which he loses to “the whiteshirts” (executives) after 43 years. He’s 59.
Ove considers his options and chooses that Swedish favorite, the Scandinavian paradise’s dirty little secret — suicide. And with each failed attempt, he flashes back to his traumatic childhood — losing his mother young, his dad tragically.
And then there was his late wife, Sonja.
“Before and after Sonja, there was nothing,” he says. And other flashbacks show us why. She brought him out of his shell, raised his horizons, made him feel loved.
Now, drowning in the bile of a world he cannot re-shape no matter how many rules he enforces, he doesn’t want to go on. Visiting the grave of Sonja (a radiant Ida Engvoll), he can only complain to her headstone.
“This must be the first time you ever had to wait for me.”
But these new folks next door cannot function, it seems, without him. He orders the husband out of their car when he can’t properly park it.
Ove fixes things and barks and shouts at the Persian wife (Bahar Pars), even as she’s making peace offerings. But the pregnant mother of two Parveneh is a tough broad in her own right. She might be the one person who can break his Strindbergian melancholy.
“Fate is the sum total of our stupidity.”
“A Man Called Ove,” in Swedish with English subtitles, can be quietly hilarious — Ove’s insistence on whistling through his various suicide attempts, his insistence on returning the rope that snaps when he tries to hang himself. His insult to the clerk he gives him lip over that return.
It’s also overlong and sentimental. But it’s a vivid, warm and amusing portrait of a real man, someone whose life began in darkness, experienced the light of a great love and has collapsed into a pit of self-pity.
Bitter? Yes, Ove is. But the movie reminds us, the bitter have their reasons.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for thematic content, some disturbing images, and language
Credits:Written and directed by Hannes Holm, based on a novel by Fredrick Backman. . A Music Box release.
Running time: 1:52