A Man Called Ove (En Man Som Heter Ove)

Watched: 31 October

The bittersweet tale of a Swedish man who is at first presented to the audience as a petty rule enforcer – and a thoroughly unpleasant arse – before the events that have led to his current demeanour, outlook and outbursts are gradually teased out via flashbacks, turning him into a much more sympathetic figure. The story that unfolds tugs persistently at the heartstrings, and I think generally it is well-meaning and well-played by all the actors, though I do have some reservations. Chiefly these involve the use of depression and suicide attempts as the basis for a running joke, and also the way that the film uses a family of Iranian refugee characters – who have made ‘new lives’ in Northern Europe – in a rather simplistic fashion; they are merely present in the screenplay to help facilitate the redemption of the main, white character, and as such they don’t seem particularly well-drawn and there are no attempts to imagine what their own lives might actually be like. This is a rather odd trend in European cinema of late, at least where some white, northern European directors are concerned, and it seems to me that it’s potentially counter-productive, hardly likely to be reflective of the experiences of thousands of former refugees who have made it to the continent – even those who have found themselves in the most tolerant of local communities. I would like to hear and see more from those people directly, to be honest, but that gripe aside this is an enjoyable couple of hours that finds a certain downbeat comic tone and made me chuckle a fair few times. (***½)

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