From Page to Screen: A Man Called Ove

About the Book: A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

A grumpy yet loveable man finds his solitary world turned on its head when a boisterous young family moves in next door. Meet Ove. He’s a curmudgeon, the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window. He has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. People call him the bitter neighbour from hell, but must Ove be bitter just because he doesn’t walk around with a smile plastered to his face all the time? Behind the cranky exterior there is a story and sadness. So when one November morning a chatty young couple with two chatty young daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten Ove’s mailbox, it is the lead-in to a comical and heart-warming tale of unkempt cats, unexpected friendship, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul. All of which will change one cranky old man and a local residents’ association to their very foundations.

Read my review of the book here.

About the Film:  En man som heter Ove (2015)

A Man Called Ove (En man som heter Ove) is directed by Hannes Holm from his own screenplay based on Fredrik Backman’s novel. The film stars Rolf Lassgård as Ove, Filip Berg as Young Ove, Ida Engvoll as Sonja and Bahar Pars as Parveneh.

More information about the film can be found here.


Book v Film

The film largely follows the plot of the book, interspersing Ove’s encounters with his new neighbours and his thwarted attempts to be reunited with his beloved wife, Sonja, with flashbacks to his early life. I thought the flashback scenes were done particularly well with some very dramatic moments and some very touching scenes between Sonja and the young Ove. The performance by the actor playing the young Ove was terrific and I thought the actress playing Sonja was well-cast as well. The scenes between them were some of my favourites in the whole film – believable, tender and heart-warming.

The screenplay focused on some of the best humorous moments from the book and (thankfully) dropped some of the more repetitive elements (including my personal bugbear, the Saab jokes). The film wisely concentrated on the growing friendship and mutual respect between Ove and Parveneh, rather than trying to bring in the whole cast of characters from the book.   The location was well-chosen, emphasising the proximity of the houses in the little community.

The Verdict

The film is well-crafted with excellent performances and brings out the best of the humour of the book. I felt the film was particularly good at conveying the story of the young Ove and his relationship with Sonja. I still found it difficult to see the transition from the young Ove to the embittered curmudgeon but I felt the director and the actor playing Ove managed to humanise the older Ove a little more than in the book.

Overall, I preferred the film to the book because it contained more of those elements of the book I liked and the humour seemed sharper and, basically, funnier.   It will be interesting to see how the recently announced US remake of the film, set to star Tom Hanks, compares both to the Swedish version and the original book.

What do you think? Have you read the book or seen the film?

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