A Man Called Otto is a ‘large hearted’ romantic-comedy-drama story directed by Marc Forster from a screenplay by David Magee. It is the 2nd film adaptation of the 2012 novel ‘A Man Called Ove’ by Fredrik Backman after the 2015 Swedish film of the same name. The film stars Tom Hanks as Anderson Otto, with Mariana Treviño, Rachel Keller, and Manuel Garcia-Rulfo in key characters.
Otto Anderson (Tom Hanks), is an old eccentric widower. Why eccentric? After retiring from a steel company, he plans suicide for having lost his wife Sonya, a schoolteacher, six months back. Otto had met Sonya on a train after returning a dropped book to her.
In the opening scene that sets the tone of Otto Anderson (Tom Hanks)’s character, he is shown intending to buy a specific measurement of rope at a hardware store, only to learn that the store’s pricing policies won’t allow him to pay for that exact length he wants to purchase. He’ll have to pay as per policy! This completely puts him off over the built-in consumer exploitation that it represents. Hanks harrumphs with an irresistible self-justifying logic, and the clueless response from the store’s ‘young’ execs. The secret aegis of such a scene is that even though Otto seems overreacting, he’s right on his part. It should affect people that an organisation compels you to buy as much!
And Otto’s reaction to the same is what the character is all about. He cannot see things as they are ‘not’ supposed to be, for instance not keeping the society gates closed, parking without proper parking ticket, et al. Otto spends most of his time in his daily routines.
And guess what, Otto was buying the rope to end his life! Later, during his suicide attempt by hanging, he is ‘interrupted’ by his new neighbours – Marisol (Mariana Treviño), Tommy (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), and their two daughters, Abby and Luna (Alessandra Perez & Christiana Montoya). Also, Otto has flashbacks from his past; previously he had tried to enlist in the army but was unable to clear due to his heart condition called ‘hypertrophic cardiomyopathy’. This forms the basic narrative.
The rest of the story is about Otto’s multiple failed attempts at ending his life; how his new neighbours, the heavily pregnant Marisol (Mariana Treviño), her husband and their kids – barge into Otto’s plans to ‘join’ his recently departed wife. And others, including a cat’s involvement with him effects their lives. The narrative is told in episodes that has Otto having flashbacks of Sonya (mostly) intermingled with Marisol. Just as Otto is worn down by the warmth and generosity of Marisol, by the end, most of the viewers may be charmed by the message of the power of acts of kindness.
As with most of his films, Tom Hanks is a pleasure to watch. He adds tremendous weight to the narrative that helps to hold the audience’s attention. It is so surprising that with Hanks in the frame, even when he is ‘unfriendly’, others in the scene know, and it gets conveyed, that he is still kindhearted. In this case, he is large ‘hearted’ too. Don’t miss the scene when Hanks takes it up to himself to take pregnant Marisol’s driving lessons. He yells at her and others too, but it still brings a smile on one’s face. That is the charm that Hanks brings to the audience.
It is apparently very rare to see any other actor / character to match the charm of Hanks in the same frame or the film, but here Mariana Treviño as Marisol does it. She does not just do it, but her charm stays long after you have left the theatre. Mariana’s sweet looks coupled with her distinctive tone of calling out ‘Otto’ mixed with her native language is amusing.
The film is also special as Tom’s son Truman Hanks debut as young Otto Anderson (also note that the film is produced by Tom’s wife Rita Wilson). Truman seems equally charming, but his act doesn’t look effortless.
‘A Man Called Otto’ is unmissable for all those Tom Hanks fans out there and those who would love a simple movie time with family. A fodder for the domestic film industry to grab the theme for a Hindi remake with someone like Bollywood’s Aamir Khan or probably a better fitting Paresh Rawal.
Movie: A Man Called Otto
Directed by: Marc Forster
Cast: Tom Hanks, Truman Hanks, Mariana Treviño, Rachel Keller, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Cameron Britton, Mack Bayda, Juanita Jennings, Emonie Ellison, Peter Lawson Jones
Duration: 126 Mins