- A MAN CALLED OTTO
- Starring: Tom Hanks, Mariana Treviño
- Directed by Marc Forster
- Rating: PG-13
- Running time: 2 hrs 6 mins
- Sony Pictures
There are only a small handful of thespians who could read the proverbial phonebook and somehow make it entertaining. This is applicable to Tom Hanks whose body of work speaks for itself. His newest work, “A Man Called Otto” may not be among the best films he has ever done, but it is an emotional drama with characters that feel like real people whom virtually anyone can identify with.
A remake of a 2015 Swedish film “A Man Called Ove,” which in turn was based upon a 2012 novel of the same name by Swedish author Fredrik Backman, “A Man Called Otto” begins in the winter of 2018-19 and is set in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Otto Anderson (Tom Hanks) is the embodiment of what a curmudgeon is – he’s quick to call people idiots, he’s rude to everyone, and he prefers to be alone. Otto is also fastidious about rules and regulations, and he sees the world in black and white.
Otto’s behavior is rooted in part by the fact that his beloved wife has recently passed away and the company he worked his whole life for has forced him into retirement. Feeling that he has no purpose in life anymore, Otto decides it is time to take his own life.
Prior to attempting to hang himself, Otto becomes sidetracked when he sees his new neighbors, Marisol (Mariana Treviño, 2018’s “Overboard”) and Tommy (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, 2016’s “The Magnificent Seven”) trying to parallel park with a trailer. It infuriates him so badly that he marches out and parks their vehicle himself before marching back inside his home to resume his suicide attempt, which fails.
Otto, who always lived with an enlarged heart, isn’t done with trying to kill himself, but he gradually becomes more involved and hence attached to Marisol and her family as well as some of his neighbors. It ultimately leads to some genuine, heart-warming, and tear-jerking poignant moments in the film.
Hanks, who took on a slightly gaunt appearance for the role, is as brilliant as ever with the portrayal of a man in psychological despair. I still regard him as his generation’s Jimmy Stewart. He has an everyman quality about him that makes it easy for people to identify with his characters. His primary counterpart in the film is Garcia-Rulfo who delivers a strong supporting performance as a woman’s whose generosity and kindness compels her to develop a relationship with Otto despite his gruffness. Garcia-Rulfo’s emotional range is superb, and she shares great chemistry with Hanks.
Director Marc Forster (“Christopher Robin,” “World War Z”) maintains a nice, even pace throughout the film’s running time as he infuses the story with a sense of realism. He times out well a series of flashbacks to Otto’s younger days when he and his wife, Sonya (Rachel Keller, “Legion”) first meet, date, get married, and experience joys and tragedies. The younger version of Otto is played by Hanks’s son, Truman whose only other big screen role was a small part in 2020’s “News of the World,” which also starred his father. Keller delivers a sweet performance, but Truman comes across as a little wooden on the silver screen.
Overall, “A Man Called Otto,” available on streaming services, is a wonderful little drama, but just make sure you have a tissue box handy.
“A Man Called Otto” receives three-and-a-half stars out of five.