Meet Ove (Rolf Lassgard), a middle-aged curmudgeon who growls at the neighborhood dogs and hisses at the stray cat that hangs out at his door. He sees himself as the neighborhood’s rule enforcer much to the frustration of said neighbors. But the man behind the delightful Swedish comedic-drama “A Man Called Ove,” hides a deep pain. Cancer took his wife recently and he daily brings flowers to her grave, sitting and talking with her, which includes complaining about his unruly neighbors. He misses her terribly, even to the point of sniffing her clothes to remember her scent.
After losing his job, Ove gives up on life. He plans on ending it all so he can be with his beloved wife but every attempt to end his life is foiled by someone who needs his help. A young couple moves in next door and an unexpected friendship develops. The pregnant wife, Parvaneh (Bahar Pars), brings him food and asks him to help watch her daughters while she is away at the store. He is speechless as Parvaneh disappears before he can refuse. The sweet little girls touch something deep within his hardened heart and open him up to the beauty in life.
Throughout the film, Ove’s past weaves together with the comedic present circumstances of life in his neighborhood. We learn of his mother’s death when he was six and how he was raised by his strict but caring father (Stefan Gödicke) who was tragically killed by a train when Ove was still young. Later, Ove’s house catches on fire and he loses everything. Destitute, he meets Sonja (Ida Engvoll), his future wife. A tragic car accident left her paralyzed and unable to have children. Through these flashbacks we actually see how compassionate and other-centered Ove truly is deep down. Parvaneh and her family bring that out of him once again.
Still attempting to end it all, Ove never completes the job because past memories and present circumstances prevent him. Slowly it dawns on him that he needs others. By giving of himself, his time and his energy to the needs of his neighbors, they, in turn, help him bear his grief. He no longer wallows in self-centered sorrow, but reaches out to others with a new attitude about life.
Only by going out of ourselves in love to the other will we truly find life and joy even amid the sorrow we carry within. As Ove tells Parvaneh’s little daughter as he drives in a car with the windows down, “This is the life!” This is what makes life truly worth living.