Skip to content

Review: A Man Called Otto

January 5, 2023

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

Tom Hanks stars in A Man Called Otto as Otto Anderson, an old grouch who we first meet buying a hook and exactly five feet of rope from a hardware store.

An English-language remake of the 2015 Swedish film A Man Called Ove, which was itself based on the 2012 novel by Fredrik Backman, A Man Called Otto is a touching and slightly darker than expected dramedy. Sure, the story is mostly predictable, but it’s a very enjoyable film that has a lot of nicely handled emotional moments.

Otto does his daily “rounds,” which consist of re-sorting improperly placed recycling into the right bins and growling at neighbours and drivers for not following the rules of their housing community, while offering begrudging morning greetings.

We soon learn that Otto is grieving the recent loss of his beloved wife Sonya, so much so that he doesn’t know what to do without her and is trying to join her in the afterlife (hence the rope), but keeps having his suicide attempts interrupted. The biggest interruption comes when the pregnant Marisol (Mariana Treviño) moves in across the street with her husband Tommy (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo) and their two daughters, with Otto begrudgingly starting to help them out.

Directed by Marc Forster (Finding Neverland, Stranger Than Fiction, Christopher Robin), from an adapted screenplay by David Magee (Finding Neverland, Life of Pi, Mary Poppins Returns), A Man Called Otto follows the beats of other stories about jaded cynics having their hard exteriors cracked by the goodness of others. But this is an example of a film where, even if we can basically surmise the destination, we simply enjoy the ride, and watching Hanks’s Otto start to break out of his shell is both hugely satisfying and tugs at the heartstrings.

Hanks, who has become known more for his fatherly (or grandfatherly) roles, segues quite nicely into the role of a cranky old guy who masks his grief by snapping at everyone around him and admonishing them for being “idiots.” He carries the film with a very good performance, and Treviño steals scenes as the necessary ray of sunshine who bursts into his life and helps chip away at his emotional barriers.

We get some moving flashbacks that are nicely edited into the film, showing the early romance between Sonya (Rachel Keller) and Otto, who is played as a young man by Hanks’s real life son, Truman. We also get some nice song selections on the soundtrack. While remakes like this are rarely necessary, A Man Called Otto is a well made and well acted film that has its own merits, delivering a poignant emotional impact to go along with the charming story of a grouch softening up in the presence of others.

A Man Called Otto opens exclusively in theatres in limited release on January 6th, before expanding on January 13th.

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: