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A Man Called Otto review: A poignant tale of love and loss

Tom Hanks delivers a nuanced performance as an elderly man unable to find a reason to live after the death of his wife

3.5/5rating
A Man Called Otto review: A poignant tale of love and loss

Last Updated: 09.30 AM, Mar 27, 2023

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Story: Otto Anderson, a brilliant engineer is forced to retire because of his age, and just months after the death of his wife Sonya. Otto is a stickler for rules and does not like to entertain those who do not adhere to them. His grumpy old man persona does not endear him to many, but little do they know that Otto has a big heart – both literally and figuratively.

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Review: The film is based on the Swedish novel En man som heter Ove or A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman. The book was originally adapted into a critically acclaimed Swedish film in 2015. While the Hollywood iteration may not match up to its Swedish predecessor, it certainly holds its own as a compelling tale of love, loss, and self-discovery. A Man Called Otto is undoubtedly a faithful adaptation of the novel, with minor tweaks to the setting and characters. And Tom Hanks’ performance as Otto in the film is not a carbon copy of Rolf Lassgård’s depiction in the Swedish film. Hanks meticulously delivers a layered performance, contrasting Lassgård’s but without taking away the very essence of the character.

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The idea of a man losing his purpose to live after the death, or impending death, of his significant other, has become a popular trope in recent years. Rickey Gervais’ Tony in the series After Life and Nick Offerman’s Bill in The Last of Us, are some of the most recent examples. But Hanks' performance has taken inspiration from Clint Eastwood in the film Gran Torino. Otto is determined to end his life on his own terms after realising that he has no reason to carry. While he does take pleasure in enforcing the rules in his gated community, he is resigned to the fact that without his beloved Sonya, his life is incomplete. His chance encounter with his new neighbours, Marisol, Tommy and their two daughters, inadvertently, and fortuitously, disrupts his plans of taking his own life.

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Mariana Treviño as Marisol is probably the most important character in the film, apart from Otto of course. Her dry wit and charismatic personality are the perfect antidotes to Otto’s cynicism and his irritable demeanour. Despite Otto’s best attempts, he becomes a father figure to Marisol. And in many ways, Marisol becomes a catalyst of change in Otto’s life. A change that is significant enough for Otto to find a new lease on life. The film is ultimately a story about redemption and self-discovery.

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Otto’s life is explored through a series of flashbacks, where his love story with Sonya is like a Nicholas Sparks novel. However, Otto in the present day does not feature a fairytale-like story like a Sparks novel. Still, a story grounded in reality where a giant corporation is threatening to tear their neighbourhood down. This contrast in timelines signifies how the magic in Otto’s life has disappeared since Sonya’s death. And both timelines are significant in fleshing out Otto’s character. Supporting characters such as Mack Bayda’s Malcolm, Juanita Jennings’ Anita, and Jimmy played by Cameron Britton, who is best known for his role as the eerie Ed Kemper in Mindhunter, are vital to Otto’s story and redemption. The younger version of Otto is played by Hanks' son Truman Hanks while Sonya is played by Legion and Fargo star Rachel Keller. 

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Verdict: A Man Called Otto is an excellent adaptation, even though it may not match up to its Swedish predecessor. Tom Hanks is unsurprisingly excellent as Otto Anderson, but it is Mariana Treviño who steals the spotlight as the charismatic Marisol.

A Man Called Otto is available on BookMyShow Stream.

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