A Man Called Otto is in theaters on January 6th.
In ‘A Man Called Otto,’ Hanks’ Otto is a prickly member of a suburban community in Pittsburgh. Otto not only takes it upon himself to ensure the neighborhood is clean, but he’s also a stickler for the rules – making sure cars have their proper parking tags displayed and that delivery trucks don’t block the streets. Some might say he’s a prime example of a modern-day ‘Karen.’ Sadly, the love of Otto’s life, Sonya, recently passed away, and Otto is ready to end it all to join her in the afterlife. However, community members consistently thwart his suicide attempts, and the question is whether the relationships he forms will perhaps urge him to keep living.
The film is based on a 2012 novel titled ‘A Man Called Ove’ by Fredrik Backman.
That same book previously received a Swedish film adaptation in 2015. ‘A Man Called Otto’ is directed by Mark Forster (‘Christopher Robin,’ ‘Finding Neverland’), who is no stranger to the kind of sentimental fare found in this film. It can sometimes come across as overly tender or even corny, but the overall emotional contrivances of the film work, if at times a bit ham-fisted. However, Hanks always seems comfortable and handles the material well.
The film mostly takes place in Otto’s neighborhood, with occasional flashbacks to Otto’s youth and relationship with Sonya. In these flashbacks, a younger Otto is portrayed by Truman Hanks, the youngest of Tom Hanks’ real-life sons. It’s a fun addition for those who have followed Hanks’ lengthy career. The most notable of Otto’s neighbors is Marisol, delightfully played by Mariana Treviño. Marisol is one of the newest additions to the neighborhood and quickly proves to have the greatest chance of getting through to Otto. She’s a perfect counter to Otto’s curmudgeonly ways and lights up the film whenever she’s on screen.
I give A Man Called Otto 3 out of 5 stars. It was clearly a passion project for Hanks and is, for the most part, a success. It’s a testament to Tom Hanks’ performing prowess. As an actor widely known for being “America’s Dad” he does a pretty convincing job of playing an old grump. Those looking to have their emotions worked at will find something to enjoy, but there’s only so much to take away. The heavy themes are handled with grace, even if it comes across as a bit melodramatic.