A Man Called Ove

A Hollywood adaptation of this Swedish heart-tugger is probably inevitable, especially if it wins the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film later this month at the Academy Awards.

It won’t be necessary. A Man Called Ove shamelessly, but also quite movingly, hits all the required notes of the most pandering of feel-good Tinseltown sagas, with its story of a grouchy guy who turns out to have a heart of gold and a past worth sighing over.

Writer/director Hannes Holm, working from a popular novel by Fredrik Backman, eschews the astringent and absurdist comedy of such Scandinavian contemporaries as Roy Andersson and Bent Hamer.

He instead makes a comic “Kumbaya,” embracing a world view that would make Donald Trump shudder: one where neighbours of varying nationalities, sexual orientations, physical abilities and ages learn to happily get along together, even if they do a fair bit of crabbing beforehand.

The expressive Rolf Lassgård (After the Wedding) plays title grumpster Ove. Old beyond his 59 years, the kind of guy who wears a shirt and tie even when he’s supposedly chilling at home, Ove wants people off his lawn and also the road through his gated community, which looks designed by Ikea.

Ove yells at anyone who violates the many road signs he’s posted as self-appointed neighbourhood watchdog, but he’s clearly an unhappy man. Newly laid off and recently widowed, he’s making typically best-laid plans to take his own life.

He wants to be reunited with his late wife Sonja (Ida Engvoll), who is seen in numerous happier-day flashbacks where Filip Berg plays the younger and sweeter Ove.

Suicide attempts become comic through constant interruptions from the neighbours, one in particular. She’s Parvaneh (Bahar Pars), an immigrant from Iran expecting her third child with her clueless hubby Patrick (Tobias Almborg). Parvaneh needs help with her restless kids and she’s also eager to learn how to drive, despite having no aptitude for it — she wrecks Ove’s cherished mailbox while leaving her garage.

Maybe Ove could assist? And could he also look after a stray cat, the one with beseeching eyes? A movie this Hollywood might just win the Oscar, but all the tears and smiles are earned.