Ove is your typical grumpy old man. His wife has recently died and he is all alone, so all he can do is reinforce the neighbourhood bylaws and be a general pain in everyone’s neck. When an Iranian family moves in next door, however, their kindness begins to warm his heart (and thwart his numerous suicide attempts). As his bad side dwindles, we are told the story of his past: one that is heartwarming and optimistic, despite the various tragedies that cloud it over.
A Man Called Ove is exactly as advertised: a funny, feel-good piece that is safe and agreeable (and nothing more). Ove’s story has its virtues, like the introduction of his supportive wife or his petty snobbishness over Swedish carmakers, and these things quietly elevate the film so that it doesn’t become a lost cause. Yet it’s nothing out of the ordinary, either. If you’ve seen Disney Pixar’s Up, well, this is essentially the same thing without the flying balloon house or the talking animals (though there is a cat). A cantankerous old man sees the light, becomes nice and agreeable. The end. Happy tears.
… OK, maybe that’s being too reductive. It’s not as cut-and-dried as that. However, having seen some of the other Foreign Film Oscar nominees, A Man Called Ove is the one that surprises you the least. For some, that’s not a problem. For me? I like surprises. No surprises? No raves.