Blog Directory CineVerse: Turning Ove a new leaf

Turning Ove a new leaf

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Redemption tales of Scrooge-like characters always warm the heart and stir the soul, and A Man Called Ove—a Swedish film from 2015 directed by Hannes Holm—is no exception. Our CineVerse group took an in-depth look at this feature last week and came away with key insights and observations (to listen to a recording of our group discussion, click here).

What did you find unusual, unanticipated, extraordinary, or less than satisfactory about A Man Called Ove?

  • The filmmakers choose an interesting and offbeat way of unfolding the major character’s backstory: They use the tried-and-true flashback method, but they present these flashbacks typically only when Ove is near death’s door during his suicidal attempts, suggesting that his life memories are flashing before his eyes at these moments. This is an organic and uncontrived technique for providing needed context to the character.
  • The movie risks being a little too cute for its own good in some moments, attempting to tug on the heartstrings and create a more redeemable protagonist, but it’s hard not to fall under the sentimental sway of this life-affirming story and the arc of this character.
  • Likewise, it’s easy to criticize this film for being relatively predictable and indulging in clichés, including the expected reclamation of a flawed personality and the bonding between two opposites so that Ove and Parvenaugh become a surrogate father and daughter, respectively. You could also make a case that the running gag – Ove continually being interrupted in his attempts to end his life – while uproariously funny perhaps in the first few examples, becomes maudlin, borders on repetitive, and threatens to overwhelm the comedy with its dark implications. Yet, it’s a great premise for a character study on which to hang a larger narrative.
  • There are multiple endings at work here: First, the birth of Parvenaugh’s baby, then a close shave with death when Ove collapses, then his actual demise, which all occur in a matter of minutes.
  • The comedic tone, while steeped in black humor, doesn’t feel inappropriate. Film critic Odie Henderson wrote: that the black humor “doesn’t arise from any mockery of Ove’s pain over missing his spouse. That is presented as real, understandable pain. Instead, the humor comes from Ove’s stubbornness as a creature of habit.”

Major themes

  • No man is an island, or, as Parvenaugh tells Ove, “No one manages completely on their own.” Despite his stubbornness and grumpiness, Ove needs others around him and vice versa. Without the love and friendship of Parvenaugh and her family, for example, he likely would have successfully committed suicide much earlier in the story. And without the aid and intervention of Ove, Rune would have ended up in a nursing home against his wife’s wishes and the Parvenaugh’s family would not have benefitted from knowing Ove.
  • “Who we are is a result of our experiences, our decisions, our deeds, the company we keep, and the people we come to love,” according to reviewer Andrew Gaudion with The Hollywood News. Taking a closer look at Ove the man, we can deduce that he is crusty and bitter based on the bad luck that life has thrown him, including the deaths of his parents early in life, the disablement of his wife, the loss of his child, and the passing of Sonja.
  • Don’t judge a book by its cover. Ove would appear hopelessly irredeemable as an ultra-critical perfectionist, cynical curmudgeon, and embittered old man, but he demonstrates innate goodness and selflessness time and again throughout the movie. Case in point: His rescuing of a man fallen from the train platform, his taking in of the stray cat and the gay man who sought temporary refuge, and his plentiful considerate acts as a neighbor—from teaching Parvenaugh how to drive to helping Rune avoid the nursing home. Like Scrooge and the Grinch, his seemingly small heart grows – literally and figuratively by the end of the story. Ironically, his enlarged cardiac muscle, a symbol of his growing compassion, contributes to his early death and helps to prevent him from achieving his suicidal goals.

Similar works

  • Gran Torino
  • About Schmidt
  • Nobody’s Fool
  • St. Vincent
  • Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself
  • A Single Man

Other films by Hannes Holm

  • Ted – Show Me Love
  • Behind Blue Skies
  • A Christmas Tale

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