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A Man Called Otto – Film Review

A Man Called Otto – Film Review
by Brian Merriman

Director:  Marc Forster
Writers:  David Magee (screenplay) based on a novel by Fredrik Backman ( ‘A Man Called Ove’) and the original film by Hannes Holm (and the film ‘A Man Called Ove’ by)
Starring: Tom Hanks, Mariana Treviño, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo and Rachel Keller.

Tom Hanks has made a career out of playing the role of the detached man. He revels in portraying the guy who sees, lives or does things differently in films such as in ‘Philadelphia’, ‘Castaway’, ‘Forrest Gump’, ‘The Green Mile’ and ‘Sully’, to name a few. ‘A Man Called Otto’ is a further iteration of that genre that suits him well.

This is a contemporary Americanised version of the original Swedish tale, ‘A Man Called Ove’, a novel by Fredrik Backman that topped the New York Times best-selling list a decade ago. There is also a Swedish film version starring  Rolf Lassgård from 2012. The story has everything from old feuds, unscrupulous property developers, a cute cat and children. This new film version keeps the snowy (Scandanavian) background and has an additional ‘feel-good’ factor often demanded of US cinema. It is a story that ranges from some very dark moments, well played, to life-changing comedy and pathos.

The warm-hearted, caring Mexican neighbours (a wonderful performance by Mariana Treviño, Marisol and Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Tom) work so hard to make this charmless man fit in following a tragedy and an opaque future. He is Mr Neighbourhood watch with a Walter Matthau ability to grump and consider he is surrounded by idiots.

We are never privy to why they do so, as our hero does not display any reason to deserve such effort, but the past unfolds through flashbacks and reconciliation.  Otto normally would be cast aside in many communities, but the enduring impact of his wife, Sonia (Rachel Keller) endures to direct Otto’s future, after his enforced retirement. Sonia can be the only logical source for his appreciation of diversity and health exploitation. Interestingly, Hanks’s real-life son, Truman portrays Otto as the younger man.

With Hanks in the role, we know we can rely on a healthy resolution which will guarantee its place in more adult Christmas TV schedules for many years to come. In a country exhausted by MAGA, with democracy on the brink, and division being the new norm, Otto’s neighbours are the exact antitheses to what is really happening in this distanced society today. This is perhaps the main carryover from the Swedish story. In that alone, it has relevance for an American audience and has a palate ranging from dark to light, grief to heart-warming accounts of what can happen when we notice differences and find a way to help everyone ‘move on’ together.

Categories: Header, Movie Review, Movies

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