A Man Called Otto: A Quaint but Pointless Remake

A Man Called Otto is Marc Forster’s remake of the 2015 Swedish film A Man Called Ove (dir. Hannes Holm) a quaint slice of life picture about the curmudgeonly, suicidal Otto.

Tom Hanks plays the titular Otto, a man who has lost the enjoyment he once found in life and instead has become bitter to the world around him. He begins his day by doing rounds through his gated community where he rebels against delivered ads, fixes other’s mistakes in recycling, and is genuinely rude to his neighbors who continue to try and reach out to him.

He attends his last day of work at a factory, where it is made clear that he was forced into retirement rather than choosing the decision on his own, after which he returns home with a length of rope and the intention of hanging himself. Work must have been an outlet for Otto’s meticulous nature and losing that left him with very little to do.

Just at that time the arrival of his new, and parallel parking challenged, neighbors convinces him to leave his apartment and park for them out of frustration. This good deed, even if done out of a selfish manner as Otto does not suffer incompetence well, changes his life as it introduces him to Marisol (Mariana Treviño) the Mexican woman who makes it her personal responsibility to befriend the socially prickly Otto.

The film continues from there with Marisol slowly thawing Otto’s frozen heart. While doing so, the film makes increasing use of flashbacks to tell the story of Otto(played by Truman Hanks in flashbacks) and his late wife Sonya (Rachel Keller). This provides context for some of Otto’s rudeness while fleshing out the story of the film.

Tom Hanks may be one of the great actors working today, but in this film his performance is greatly overshadowed by Treviño’s, who is new to the Hollywood system. Her constant quips at the sullen Otto’s expense provide most of the laughs for the film.

A Man Called Otto falls for the common plight of foreign films remade into English only a few years later in that the film offers very little new outside of the language change. One could easily just watch A Man Called Ove, assuming they are amiable to reading while they watch, and get the same value out of it.

This pointlessness is further exemplified by the fact that the film feels very slight. Otto’s story is interesting enough to keep one in their seat for two hours, but it has little staying power. A Man Called Otto is fine January viewing but will not be remembered come year end.

★★½

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