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A Man Called Otto: Other Fredrick Backman Novels That Deserve Film Adaptations

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Fredrik Backman is a Swedish author who falls into the rare category of writers whose books go on to become international bestsellers and receive big-screen film adaptations, yet the author remains criminally underrated. A Man Called Ove is Backman’s most famous work, journeying through the life and mind of a grouchy old man who can’t bear the weight of living after losing his wife, and just received a brilliant and successful film adaptation, A Man Called Otto, that proves that Backman can be adapted to American audiences.

Backman is a prolific and astounding writer. Every one of his stories pulls off the fantastic feat of being both agonizingly heart-wrenching and amazingly heart-warming at the same time, as Backman is a master at conveying the human condition and how we relate to one another. With half a dozen novels and novellas and a book for every mood, there is plenty of material to inspire the next big emotional hit at theaters. Here are the Fredrick Backman books that we think deserve to be adapted next.

A unique coming-of-age story, My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell She’s Sorry deals with the complicated issues of loss, grief, and forgiveness through the eyes of seven-year-old Elsa. Elsa’s different because her grandmother’s different — as in firing paintballs from the balcony at strangers and climbing into zoos in the middle of the night to play with the monkeys different — and she’s also Elsa’s only friend. Elsa takes refuge every night in her Granny’s fables of the special kingdoms in the Land-of-Almost-Awake, where everybody is different.

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But Elsa loses her Granny to cancer, and she is tasked with delivering a collection of her Granny’s letters apologizing to the people she wronged in her life. The letters lead her to drunks, monsters, dogs, and the truth about the Land-of-Almost-Awake that had always existed. My Grandmother is perfect for the big screen, detailing the classic tale of growing up, but in the context of childhood and loss and love that will remind us of the magic of grandmothers.

Britt-Marie Was Here actually received an adaptation as a Swedish film like A Man Called Ove did, and Britt-Marie’s story matches Ove’s. She’s an old grouch who refuses to change her ways because she lost her spouse — but instead of dying, Britt-Marie’s husband cheated on her and left with another woman. Needing to get away from everything that reminds her of her broken marriage and her past, she gets a job as a youth soccer coach in the rundown backwater town of Borg.

Having been told what to do what she is her whole life, she has no clue what to do with her life — or how to manage the kids she’s supposed to help. She learns how to be with people, to love the people of Borg who she despised, becomes attracted to a cop, and even gets the kids to win a soccer match. But when her old husband returns regretting his mistake, Britt-Marie doesn’t know how to make a decision for herself between her personal happiness and the happiness she’s helped others find.

Beartown, the first novel of Backman’s trilogy following the hockey-crazed residents of Beartown, actually received a miniseries from HBO Max a few years ago. Set in a small backwater town, both the book and the show dive deep into the intense culture surrounding the game of hockey, and how Beartown’s local junior hockey team is the way for the town to revitalize itself and become something again. But the extreme pressure on the team causes some to crack and turn on each other.

The next novel, Us Against You, continues the story of Beartown as the junior team goes competes against a neighboring town, a rivalry that starts with petty pranks that end with death before the two towns could reconcile. The last novel, The Winners, follows the team as they try to figure out their lives away from the game and how to live with their mistakes and with themselves.

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The show does not follow Backman’s novel nor continue Beartown’s story beyond the first book and received mixed reviews in its short run. Each book is a stand-alone story and could easily be part of a movie trilogy that would be celebrated by sports fans and drama enthusiasts alike.

Anxious People also become a miniseries on Netflix, and might be Backman’s best novel yet. A failed bank robber running from the police takes an apartment full of people hostage on New Year’s Eve. Unfortunately for the would-be bank robber, the hostages are simply the most impossible people ever. From an old couple with a failing marriage to a young couple expecting a child to a ninety-year-old woman who has seen too much to be afraid of a gun waved in her face to the owner of the bank to a man dressed as a rabbit locked in the bathroom, the bank robber has to decide whether to face the police or the apartment full of people.

Backman pulls off the impossible in Anxious People, juggling mystery, comedy, loss, parenthood, addiction, and simply living all in the stories and anxieties of every single character that appears, all expertly balanced while flying through the air where any other author would drop everything. The Netflix series was a good attempt at this, and while worth viewing, a movie would better the accomplishment of the book, which is simply a reminder that good people make wrong choices too.

Given the notable success of A Man Called Otto, more adaptations of Backman’s books are sure to come, especially since there are already plenty just waiting to reach a wider audience on the big screen, and there’s certainly more on the way from this wonderful storyteller.



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