In 2016, one of my favorite films of the year was an international movie called A Man Called Ove, based on a novel of the same name by Fredrik Backman. Starting off 2023, director Marc Forester and screenwriter David Magee have adapted Backman’s book into an American version of the story starring Tom Hanks. While not as good as the Swedish film, A Man Called Otto, despite its predictability, is a solid and entertaining adaptation.
Hanks is Otto, a grumpy widow who has made it is life to police the small neighborhood where he lives, but more importantly because he misses his wife so deeply, he wants to do himself in and join her in the hereafter. After retiring, he is even more pressed to end his life, but the unexpected happens when a pregnant Marisol (Mariana Treviño), her bumbling husband (Manual Garcia-Rulfo), and two daughters move across the street. Despite himself, he connects with Marisol and her girls. Still, he struggles with suicidal ideation.
Hanks offers his typical first-rate performance, but Treviño makes A Man Called Otto worthwhile. She and Hanks have excellent chemistry and her portrayal of Marisol strengthens the film. Garcia-Rulfo and others in the ensemble add character and heart to the story and draw us into their lives on a street with Otto. Each plays well against Otto’s abrasiveness and allows Hanks excellent opportunities to shine.
A Man Called Otto’s plot is positively transparent but in a good way. Otto softens, life changes for the better for all the residents, and the ending is neatly tied up. Ultimately, A Man Called Otto entertains in a sweet, pleasing way. Hanks tailors Backman’s character well to suit the film and his own flair for developing interesting and heartfelt portrayals. Treviño, however, is the real heart of the film and her relationship and chemistry with Hanks/Otto make the journey worth the trip. I am placing four stars at the top for this sweet film. Still, I recommend seeing the Swedish version of a Man Called Ove first because it is the better version. It’s the cast in A Man Called Otto that make it fun.