There's much that is worryingly familiar about the Swedish hit and the country's Foreign Language Oscar candidate, A Man Called Ove.

Our titular guy spends much of his time talking to the headstone of his late wife; He keeps on attempting suicide, only for life to intrude on his deathwish; He's another movie curmudgeon who has his heart melted by exposure to children or those in need of his deep-buried compassion or wisdom.

A scene from the film, A Man Called Ove.
A scene from the film, A Man Called Ove.

But despite all that, Ove is still a winning combo of black comedy and melancholic melodrama with a Scandinavian twist or three.

There are not many films that include a running debate on the relative merits of Volvo v Saab and give a through-the-decades history of the marques.

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The film is based on the 2012 Fredrik Backman Swedish bestseller book of the same name and stars Rolf Lassgard, best known beyond his borders as the first to portray Henning Mankell's detective Kurt Wallander on screen.

Ove is a put-out-to-pasture railway engineer who, between graveside visits, enforces the rules of his neighbourhood association, from whose leadership he was ousted.

He gets a new neighbour, pregnant Iranian immigrant mother-of-two Parvaneh (Bahar Pars), who has no fear of his prickliness and his soon roping him in as driving instructor, handyman and babysitter.

And as Ove finds a new purpose in life we learn more about his old one - how he fell in love with his saintly wife and how he's earned his dim view of the world.

A scene from the film, A Man Called Ove.
A scene from the film, A Man Called Ove.

The flashbacks scenes offer a gorgeous period contrast to Ove's grey suburban present. Add some balloons and the grumpy geezer film this most resembles would be the opening minutes of Up.

It's a little clunky in its episodic storytelling, there are contrivances aplenty, and Ove's prejudices are reserved for "idiots" whom he can identify instantly. But A Man Called Ove is both dourly funny and affecting. A bad-mood feel-good movie.

Verdict: A Bitter-Swede tale of the grump next door.


Cast: Rolf Lassgard, Bahar Pars, Filip Berg
Director: Hannes Holm
Rating: M (offensive language, suicide)
Running time: 116mins