Review: A Man Called Otto

By Steve Vertlieb: Saw A Man Called Otto last evening with Shelly. We laughed. We cried. We re-discovered the joys, meaning, and value of true humanity. Our world is suffering the dubious rewards of bitterness, suspicion, anger, and bigotry, and we are the worse for it. I was brought up in a time of relative innocence and the perception, at least, of goodness and integrity during the 1950’s when the value of a single human life seemed respected, and often revered … if only in my own youthful perspective.

Otto, as played by Tom Hanks, is a man consumed by bitterness, anger, and suspicion of his neighbors, finding annoyance in their slightest imperfection. His utter desolation, born of personal loneliness and tragedy, govern and dictate his reactions to human frailty … until he is urged into a corner brimming with genuine selflessness and affection. His transformation, not unlike that of Alistair Sim as Scrooge in the classic 1951 film version of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” is both inspiring and profoundly moving.

A Man Called Otto is the perfect screen vehicle for this sweetly eloquent actor. Just as his portrayal of Mister Rogers lit the screen with love, dignity, and respect for one another, his understanding of the frightening sadness consuming this otherwise gentle soul is both heartfelt and consummate. His deeply singular redemption, if you will, is as inspiring and beautiful as the aforementioned Alistair Sim in Scrooge, or Jimmy Stewart as George Bailey in Frank Capra’s It’s A Wonderful Life.

Joining Tom Hanks in his quietly sensitive, if grumpy, performance in the title role is a delightful, utterly joyous co-starring role by Mariana Treviño as “Marisol,” his deceptively quirky Mexican neighbor whose cherished humor and wisdom ultimately rescue his painfully expiring soul.

Truman Hanks, the son of the actor, is similarly outstanding as young “Otto,” a man torn apart by his own simplicity, and both emotional and physical awkwardness … until he meets the love of his life, as played sweetly by Rachel Keller as Sonya.

A Man Called Otto is the happiest, most genuinely heartwarming film that I’ve seen since Love Actually, overflowing with joy, humility, frailty, and a gentle sense of reflection and humanity sorely needed in these deeply troubled times of divisiveness, shattering our once cherished principles of tolerance, compassion, and respect for one another.

Directed by Marc Forster, with a screenplay by David Magee, based upon the novel and 2015 Swedish film A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman, A Man Called Otto is a sentimental journey to simpler times, and the overwhelmingly aching loss of civility and shared serenity. It is, in its own quiet way, a loving, tenderly affectionate, nearly spiritual prescription for simple kindness and humanity.

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6 thoughts on “Review: A Man Called Otto

  1. Thanks for the review. The only reviews I’ve seen headlines for all HATED it, and hate Tom Hanks, as far as I can tell, and for no reason I know.

  2. I liked the movie, but I think we have reached a time where we should stop playing suicide attempts for laughs, and of treating them as somehow reasonable responses to life’s troubles rather than the result of mental problems that should be treated. I also found the young Otto flashbacks unnecessary. They didn’t tell us anything we couldn’t imagine for ourselves.

    I agree that the Marisol character is awesome. She steals the movie.

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