Review: A Man Called Otto

Score: A-

Director: Marc Forster

Cast: Tom Hanks, Mariana Treviño, Rachel Keller, Truman Hanks

Running Time: 126 Minutes

Rated: PG-13

2023 has just started, but already we have our first pleasant surprise of the year. A Man Called Otto was not among my most anticipated films. Its trailers made it look overly sappy, as if Tom Hanks' grumpy retiree would become nicer simply through osmosis. But the film is much more complicated than that. Its portrayal of emotions and connections isn't that easy, making it a much richer film.

Otto is almost identical in plot to the Oscar-nominated Swedish film A Man Called Ove. But having never seen that adaptation, my expectations were constantly upended. This is not to say there's no predictability here, just that it's much more about grief and isolation than something in the vein of Grumpy Old Men. Recently widowed and forced into retirement, Otto often contemplates and attempts suicide. There's dark humor laced throughout, but Hanks makes sure Otto's pain is both felt and understood.

Interrupting his daily routine - and his chances to end it all - is Marisol (Mariana Treviño) and her family. Immigrants from Mexico, the new neighbors put off Otto not because of their ethnicity, but because of their cheerful nature, and dad Tommy's ineptitude. Their constant presence - and Marisol's cooking - draw him closer to friendship than any of the other residents he's pushed away. Flashbacks fill in the gaps, including his lifelong romance with Sonya (Rachel Keller) and the joys and sorrows they had during their decades-long marriage. It's like the first 10 minutes of Up, spliced throughout. (Yes, that means you should bring the tissues.)

For me the film delivered a sense of catharsis that certain awards season fare never did. (Looking at you, The Whale.) Still, your mileage may vary on how the film impacts you. I can't deny I was genuinely moved to tears more than once, and I never felt manipulated or tricked. That's not a reaction I've had very often over the last few years.

A Man Called Otto may not be original, but it is thoughtful, moving and funny. It's a gift. Share it with the people you love.


About Kip Mooney

Kip Mooney
Like many film critics born during and after the 1980s, my hero is Roger Ebert. The man was already the best critic in the nation when he won the Pulitzer in 1975, but his indomitable spirit during and after his recent battle with cancer keeps me coming back to read not only his reviews but his insightful commentary on the everyday. But enough about a guy you know a lot about. I knew I was going to be a film critic—some would say a snob—in middle school, when I had to voraciously defend my position that The Royal Tenenbaums was only a million times better than Adam Sandler’s remake of Mr. Deeds. From then on, I would seek out Wes Anderson’s films and avoid Sandler’s like the plague. Still, I like to think of myself as a populist, and I’ll be just as likely to see the next superhero movie as the next Sundance sensation. The thing I most deplore in a movie is laziness. I’d much rather see movies with big ambitions try and fail than movies with no ambitions succeed at simply existing. I’m also a big advocate of fun-bad movies like The Room and most of Nicolas Cage’s work. In the past, I’ve written for The Dallas Morning News and the North Texas Daily, which I edited for a semester. I also contributed to Dallas-based Pegasus News, which in the circle of life, is now part of The Dallas Morning News, where I got my big break in 2007. Eventually, I’d love to write and talk about film full-time, but until that’s a viable career option, I work as an auditor for Wells Fargo. I hope to one day meet my hero, go to the Toronto International Film Festival, and compete on Jeopardy. Until then, I’m excited to share my love of film with you.