A Man Called Otto (2022)

Quick Synopsis: Tom Hanks plays Otto the grouchy man who gets new neighbours who predictably warm his heart (not over an open fire, that would be weird) in this English-language adaptation of the Swedish book “A Man Called Ove”

Some films aren’t for everybody, and that’s okay. They’re too niche, too dark, or just too damn weird for mass audiences to enjoy. This isn’t one of those films, this is the opposite, and this is aimed at almost everybody. It’s a simple story, slickly told, and with one or two swears, but nothing too unpleasant. It even stars the perennial “oh I like him, he is good isn’t he?” everyman Tom Hanks.
That’s probably my biggest issue. I like Tom Hanks, he is obviously very good (and I’m sure that he celebrated actor with multiple awards, appreciates being reassured by a reviewer who is, let’s face it, a nobody), and he is likeable; that’s the problem. Otto is supposed to be a cantankerous grouch, a man who is angry at the world and expresses it through snark. He’s supposed to be someone you genuinely don’t want to spend a minute near in case his abrasiveness washes off on you. It doesn’t work if he’s played by Tom Hanks, he’s just too charming an actor to pull off this character. You spend the entire time knowing he’ll eventually turn good, and you’re just waiting for it to happen. If he was played by someone who generally plays quite villainous or menacing roles then it might have worked better. James Gandolfini would have been perfect if he wasn’t dead (which usually harms career prospects for everybody who is not 2Pac).

The upside of casting Hanks is that more people are likely to see it, which is a good thing as this is something that deserves to be seen. It’s not going to be something you remember for years and years, but it is good enough that six or seven years down the line, you’ll be browsing ParaHulCockFlix and see it, and think “yeah, I remember liking that, let’s watch it”.

Quick note, that was supposed to be an amalgamation of Paramount+, Hulu, Peacock, and Netflix, the fact it nearly says “huge cock flicks” is a genuine accident, but one I’m not changing.

The other positive of casting Tom Hanks is it means his son can play the younger version of him. No, not crazy Colin, but Truman, who doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page. He’s a better actor than his experience would suggest, which is good as any flaws will bring up accusations of nepotism. He more than earns his place in this film, providing the character with youthful hope and warmth which means the turning point when he loses everything is all the more heartbreaking.

The rest of the cast is good too, the kids aren’t annoying, and Mariana Treviño provides her character with enough passion and life that she doesn’t seem pushy and annoying.

Everybody involved in this is obviously very good, and nobody is slacking. So why is this only “very good” and not amazing? There’s the aforementioned “Hanks is too nice” issue, but it does also occasionally come off a bit too “all young people are useless, old people are amazing and know everything”. It’s so boomer and “old man yells at cloud” that the fact the character’s reaction to someone being trans is “your father kicked you out because of that? Then he’s an idiot”, it is weirdly affirming that a character who is supposed to be mean and hate people, is still pro-trans rights. So if you’re anti-them, then you’re not only an idiot but also a special kind of hateful. He’s completely serious too, no “JK”.

My other issue is how the film opens, it shows him buying rope to make a noose at a hardware store. But he doesn’t attempt suicide until about 15 minutes later, with quite a few scenes and characters in between. If the failed suicide was earlier, then it would have flowed a bit better.

So in summary, you should see this, it’s very fun, and at times very sad. Also, it made me want to see the original adaptation (available on Mubi) plus read the book (available in bookstores, obviously)


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s