A preview of Wednesday film – A Man Called Ove

Hannes Holm’s adaptation of Fredrik Backman’s bestselling novel is that rarest of things, a film that improves on its source material. In place of Backman’s broad brush comedy, Holm presents an altogether more nuanced take on the universal trope of the grumpy old man.

Rolf Lassgård, best known in this country as the original Wallander, is Sweden’s answer to Victor Meldrew in a sweet tale of redemption. Heavily disguised under layers of latex and a bald cap (despite being five years older than 59 year old Ove), Lassgård does most of the film’s heavy lifting, although it’s scene stealing Bahar Pars that stops the movie slipping into sentimentality as the breezy,  no-nonsense neighbor, Parvaneh. Ida Engvoll is incandescent in flashback, and though given little more to do than smile beatifically, the haunting loss of her presence does much to make sense of Ove’s transition from earnest but decent young man into a curmudgeon.

The overarching trajectory of the movie can be mapped out in the first five minutes of its compact running time, but that doesn’t stop the journey being hugely enjoyable, with enough pleasingly surprising diversions along the way to keep the audience thoroughly engaged.

By David Vass