PG-13. It has the same rating as Grumpy Old Men for a reason.
DIRECTOR: Hannes Holm
I stared with the Grumpy Old Men comparison, so I'm going to finish it before I get too off track. There are just too many comparisons to Grumpy Old Men and movies of that genre to ignore. I was discussing this movie with my film class the other day and they wondered if it was too sappy. I really had to pause. This genre is a sappy one. It's always with the dude who hates life and everyone and then learns to love while still maintaining a hint of the grump who has always been there. Yeah, this is that movie. What about it?
I liked this movie. I really liked it. I think that Kimmel nailed the point about how depressing the nominees were for Best Picture this year. Yeah, this movie is depressing in concept. It's about a guy failing to kill himself. But it's funny. I know that sounds super flippant, but the movie asks us to laugh at Ove's misfortune. Maybe this movie is more on the nature of comedy. I keep reading about how inappropriate humor should be banned and I don't want to stand on my soapbox and sound like the grumpy old man depicted above, but the movie isn't meant to be funny. Like most humor, someone is going to get upset. Depression and suicide are very serious topics. But we, as a culture, have either a choice to laugh or to sit sadly at a wall and only feed the depression. A Man Called Ove really rides the line between the humor that comes from the morbid and the sadness that comes with a man dealing with being alone. The weird part is that this is the kind of movie that can make me more angry than anything else. Emotionally manipulative garbage usually comes from directors trying to do something dramatic and something funny simultaneously. These are the movies that I have to be polite about when discussing among mixed company. "Oh, I'm glad you liked it. I wasn't the biggest fan, but that's exciting." People stare at me like I'm a monster and I have to apologize to my wife again. But Ove pulls it off. It reminds me of the first time I saw Life is Beautiful, addressing a real problem and giving it a humorous tone.
Holm pulls off the world of Ove not just with his lead character, but with the setting he creates. The world is both ultra-grounded and somewhat bizarre. Now, I've only been to Sweden once (AWARD WINNING SENTENCE!), but that subdivision seems just so typical of what I've seen. It is in the details that create the world of Ove. The movie covers this world pretty well, and the setting is almost as valuable as that of Gravity. (Okay, now I'm now full of garbage.) But Ove is in completely control of the things around him. Perhaps there is a sense of irony that Ove feels like he has lost control. But everything in this world exists because of his actions. I'd like to think that Holm has sculpted everything in a Rube Golberg-esque way. A guy falls off a ladder? Ove's ladder. Kids need to go to the hospital? Ove's car. A man needs to be identified as a villain? Ove's policy. Geez, the neighborhood is almost designed by an obsessive-compulsive H.H. Holmes who is trying to impress the HOA. The movie doesn't really work without the world around him.
Perhaps my favorite part of this movie is the love story. The movie flashes throughout Ove's life and that is all well and good. I don't know if I can acknowledge Ove's narration of his own relationship with his father, but the story plays out pretty well. It is when he encounters his wife that I fall in love. While I never feel what he does, I understand the relationship with his dead wife. She is genuinely worthy of love from Ove's perspective. Many film relationships have a group of pretty people forced into ridiculous scenarios and the chemistry is there because we are told they have chemistry. It works sometimes and sometimes it just falls flat. But Sonja saves Ove. She seems a good and simple man and challenges him. She loves him for him and that is absolutely perfect. It is through their relationship that I want to scream at the scream and tell him to do the right thing. When he gets off the train, I just sat there, agape, not knowing how it would have worked out. Perhaps the moments getting her back seemed a bit fictional, but it gives that moment validity. As Sonja fought for him while he sat silently, he fought for her by walking. I like that. Shut up. I have a soul.
Justice is a great thing. Ove is a man of justice who has lost his way. After seeing so many movies where people treat each other like dirt, Ove's story is about standing up to the man. He calls them the White Shirts, but these are the Mr. Potters all over again. It's Parvaneh who brings that social justice to the surface. There's an absolutely beautiful moment when Ove is teaching her how to drive that just makes my heart alight. I don't want to spoil it and I don't want to seem preachy, but that moment is the difference between being comfortable and white and determined and cultural. Yeah, I'm getting really preachy, but it's why I question who we are as a people. (Important note: it is really hard to write when you don't want to be outright spoilery.)
The movie is beautiful. In an era where stuff is depressing, sometimes addressing that depression is needed to move on. I like happiness. I like relationships. Sure, I will always flock to the depressing stuff. But the depressing stuff only gets the balance when it is contrasted with something wholesome like A Man Called Ove.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.