‘A Man Called Otto’ Movie Review


Alyssa Abke, Treasurer

Tom Hanks. We know him from all the American classics – Forrest Gump, Cast Away, Toy Story, and The Green Mile. Based on the book by Swedish author, Fredrik Backman, Tom Hank’s most recent film, A Man Called Otto, depicts an old man (Otto) who’s given up on life and humanity itself after losing his soulmate, Sonya.

The movie opens up with a man who seems ready to end it all, but just when life seems like it’s hit its dullest, last moment, Otto’s new, pregnant neighbor, Marisol comes knocking on his door ready to change his entire life as he knows it. After the death of Sonya, Otto’s in a very dark place where nothing seems to make him happy. He has tried to move on from his wife’s death for months, but just can’t seem to do it as he doesn’t want to get rid of Sonya. While most of today’s movies focus on the love and attention of a significant other, A Man Called Otto shows the power of love from people often forgotten, neighbors.

I loved this film because of the intensity and genuineness with it. Too much of Hollywood is about making movies that don’t reflect how life truly is. It makes it hard to relate to the characters and what they’re going through as an audience member. Sitting in the movie theater, I was thinking about how real all the characters felt. We’ve all met the old, grumpy man, incredibly loud and nosey neighbor, teenage punk, block walkers, and friends we no longer feel able to speak to, and A Man Called Otto shows how impactful the unexpected people can be in our lives.

In an interview with Cinema Blend about making the scenes realistic, Tom Hanks said “I won’t tell you what scene it is in the movie, but it’s Otto by himself at his house. And we were… we’d set it up and we knew what it was, and we knew how it went. And in the back of my head, I was thinking, ‘I don’t think we’ve earned this moment in our movie yet. I think this is too presentational. It’s too on the nose. There’s no subtext to it. It’s only text.’ And I’m thinking, ‘This scene is fake.’ And Mark Forster comes in, and he sits down next to me at the table. He.  says, ‘You know, I have this problem. … I have a problem with this scene because I don’t know, it just seems so fake to me.’ And I said, ‘You are saying what is in my head!’ He says, ‘So, can we take all the fake stuff out of this and do it less fake?’ I said, ‘Mark Forster, you are the first director I have ever worked with who has sat down on a set with me and said, “Please make this less fake.’” They usually want the absolute opposite.”

I think a lot of my laughs and tears came from knowing people who’d been through all the same troubles and hysterical situations presented in the movie.

On the flip side, A Man Called Otto also show cased how aware we need to be with those around us. We never know what someone else is going through. In the case of Otto, an obnoxious, witty-woman with a baby on the way saved his life multiple times by knocking on his door. Otto starts off annoyed with his pregnant neighbor, but over time he grows to love her whole family and sees them as his own. Although this example might be a little drastic for some, it displays how far our actions can go. For better or for worse, everything we do has an impact on the world around us and it is our choice to make that a positive or a negative one.