Gilbert Speaks on “A Man Called Otto”

I love watching most films that Tom Hanks stars in. I equate his films to comfort food. No matter how shitty your day is, a Tom Hanks film will always leave you with a smile. Did A Man Called Otto satisfy my “Feel Good” indicator?

A Man Called Otto

Based on a 2012 novel, A Man Called Ove by author Fredrik Backman, and the 2015 Swedish Film adaptation of the book, A Man Called Otto is the American film adaptation. Directed by Marc Forster, and starring Tom Hanks, Truman Hanks, Mariana Trevino, Rachel Keller, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, and Mike Birbiglia, this little gem of a film follows Otto Anderson who is seriously intent on committing suicide.

Otto Anderson (Tom Hanks) is a grumpy senior citizen who is dealing with the death of his wife. Childless and apparently with no family members keeping in touch, Otto has alienated all his neighbors. I’m not sure if Otto is within the autism spectrum, or if he is has extreme OCD, but he is sure a stickler for routine, and heaven help anyone who messes with that gate that protects his neighborhood…which the corporation that is trying to force his neighbors to sell their homes in order to build huge mansions…is constantly doing. On Otto’s first attempt at suicide by rope, we get flashbacks to his being rejected for enlistment due to Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy and his meeting his wife, Sonya (Rachel Keller) at the train station. Young Otto is played by Truman Hanks.

On the day of his failed attempt at suicide, Otto is distracted by new neighbours moving in. Tommy (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo) and his very pregnant wife Marisol (Mariana Trevino) are having a heck of a time parking their car that is pulling a trailer with all their worldly possessions. Otto curmudgeonly agrees to help park the vehicle, which gains him the admiration of the family and their little girls.

This is where the film really gets funny. Marisol is a woman with a big heart and later that day, she brings food to Otto while asking for an Allen wrench. What Marisol doesn’t realize is that Otto is intent on joining his wife. He brings flowers to Sonya’s grave and apologizes for his failure at suicide…but life has other plans for Otto, beginning with a cat that keeps coming around, a transgender teenager (Mack Bayda), a fitness-obsessed neighbor, Jimmy (Cameron Britton) and elderly neighbours, Rueben (Peter Lawson Jones) and his wife Anita (Juanita Jennings).

As cranky andumiserable as Otto is, his new and old neighbours keep interacting with Otto and the results are both comical and touching. Through Otto’s eyes, we slowly learn about the other neighbors and about the reason that Otto and Sonya were childless. It is with great patience and determination that Marisol wins Otto over, never knowing of his failed attempts at suicide… including one attempt that actually made Otto a social media hit after he saved a man’s life while trying to end his.

Conclusion

There is a second plot to this film that concerns the corporation that is forcing people out of their homes. When Otto realizes that the corporation is using illegal methods to force people from their homes, he channels all that anger and his OCD to hit them where it hurts.

Like I said in the beginning, I consider a Tom Hanks film as delicious as comfort food, and this film definitely satisfied me. You know that old saying that it takes a village to raise a child…well it also takes a village to protect the elderly, the sick, and the unloved. Mariana Trevino’s character is the type of person you want living in your neighbourhood. Trevino’s character was a perfect counterweight to Hanks’ grouchy Otto.

As a side note on being neighborly: as bad as the Covid Shutdown was for all of us, it was good in so many ways. I got to know all my neighbors. You never know what pain and sorrow our neighbors are going through. You never know when someone is going to attempt suicide. A kind word, an invitation, a plate of cookies or a cooked meal, might just be enough to deter someone from taking their life. It takes a village. Don’t ever forget this.

You can watch A Man Called Otto on Netflix.

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