My nomination for foreign language film of the year goes to A Man Called Ove (pronounced oo-vuh). The film could be subtitled “Surprised by Joy”. In the first few frames I immediately connected with the cantankerous, gruff Ove, a man of few words and even fewer smiles. Ove is a widower whose best days are behind him. As he says in the movie, life began when Sonja came in and ended when Sonja left. All Ove is looking forward to is the time when he can be with Sonja again. I think anyone who has had a child transition can related to Ove. I don’t know of a Shining Light Parent who hasn’t felt like Ove at least on a few days.
All Ove wants is to be left alone until the time he can finally go be with Sonja, but the universe has other plans. As I’ve been going through this grief journey, counselors and mediums have been telling me I’d find joy again some day. It’s something I could not even conceive of. One counselor told me to picture a joyous time with Shayna and then try to project that feeling into the future and think of possibilities that could bring that joy to me again. That, for me, was an exercise in futility. Nothing can replace that. People say to us things like “Well, you have other children.” or “You have a wife.” My response is this. Come into the kitchen and lay your hand on the counter. I’ll take this carving knife. Which of your arms would you like me to remove? You have another arm. How about just a hand? Maybe a finger. You have nine more. Children aren’t replaceable or interchangeable parts. Having other children, other people in your life doesn’t mean we won’t always, always, always miss the one who has crossed over.
Ove is a man who believes there are two ways to do everything. There is your way and the right way. He doesn’t suffer fools gladly. In spite of wanting to be left alone, he can’t abide the sloppiness and laziness of his neighbors and eventually gets sucked into interacting with them more than he would care to. And, that’s when the universe springs it on him. Ove, after Sonja’s departure, discovers joy again. In ways totally unpredictable and unexpected to Ove, he finds genuine joy like he hasn’t known since he was a child. Ove is happy, smiling, and laughing like he never thought he could.
I watch a lot of movies and one thing that occurred on me the other day is that no movie, no story has a truly happy ending.The hero usually survives. The hero defeats the bad guy, gets the girl, finds the treasure and lives “happily ever after”. The lights come up and we leave the theater. But as Ove points out, “No one gets out of here alive.” The ending of all our stories is the same. Continue that story long enough and the hero always dies. We are mortals and while the timing and method of the end of the physical bodies are variable, one thing that is universal is they cease to function. Spoiler alert- Ove dies. Is this a sad ending? I mean, after all this, Ove finally finds joy and then he dies. It is absolutely not a sad ending. While death is the end of one story for Ove, he’s reunited with Sonja and off to a new beginning of another. Bon voyage.