This year’s Best Foreign Film Oscars race was more or less over when Iranian director Asghar Farhadi refused to attend the ceremony in protest against President Trump’s travel ban on Muslims. But if the solidarity vote for Farhadi hadn’t happened, the odds were on A Man Called Øve (En man som heter Øve) to become the first Swedish film to win the Oscar since Ingmar Bergman’s Fanny and Alexander in 1983.
This darkly humorous and at times frankly sentimental tale of a suicidal pensioner humanised by the influence of a family of refugees who move into his neighbourhood has proved a crowd-pleaser wherever it has screened.
Director Hannes Holm, who wrote the screenplay based on an original novel by Fredrik Backman, is best known for his family films about the typically Swedish Andersson family on their annual vacations. But here he reveals - among other things - a distinct penchant for black comedy (one of the funniest running gags is Øve’s repeatedly foiled suicide attempts).
But A Man Called Øve really belongs to actor Rolf Lassgård in the title role as a man who has lived his life by the rules and is genuinely affronted by others’ failure to do so. A warm and funny film it is impossible not to like, especially if you have ever owned a Saab.