From the start of Hannes Holm's fanciful character study A Man Called Ove, Sweden's official submission for the foreign-language Oscar, it's clear where things are going: The curmudgeon of the title is going to get a wake-up call. If the tone is more overtly sentimental, A Man Called Ove plays like a Swedish variation on Gran Torino—except the cars are Volvos and Saabs. Ove (Wallander star Rolf Lassgård, unrecognizable in a bald cap), a 59-year-old widower, has just been made redundant after 42 years at the same factory. If he was grumpy before, now he's downright suicidal, but every time he tries to kill himself, one of his pesky neighbors interrupts him.
Then a Swedish Iranian couple, Patrick and the heavily pregnant Parvaneh (Bahar Pars, a sparky foil), moves in next door (in the Eastwood film, the neighbors were Hmong). True to form, Ove is anything but hospitable. Only his sainted wife lived up to his exacting standards, and he devotes every free moment to daydreams about Sonja, a special education teacher who encouraged him to become an engineer. In the present day, a container of saffron chicken, two kids in need of a grandfather, a gay waiter, and a neglected Siamese cat all conspire to wear him down.
If your heart is made of mush, Holm's adaptation of Fredrik Backman's novel may have the same effect on you. It's predictable and manipulative, but after 57 minutes, I tired of resisting its attempts to win me over. Damn Siamese cat. That was the turning point for me.