Otto is an unhappy man who lives alone after losing his wife. They don’t know what it is about the curmudgeon who takes it upon himself to see that everyone in the neighborhood drives, parks and lives by every rule ever put in place by the Homeowners Association they were initially a part of, but Otto Anderson’s neighbors can’t help trying to win him over.
Through his disdain for others, there’s an oddly comedic element that shines through on occasion, revealing who Otto once was. You can see it now and through flashbacks. While watching, you know that he was a sickeningly sweet man at some point in his life. Though Otto’s not really pleasant now, those around him can tell he holds a kindness for them all. Mr. Grumpy Pants isn’t jolly; everyone will be merry for him. He desperately tries to hide it, but they see through that veneer easily enough, and so will you.
The film takes great lengths to show you he is sad. Hints as to why eventually give justification for his behavior. However, the filmmakers needn’t bother spelling it out for you when they get to the scene that examines the cause of his misery and why he’s so destroyed; you’ll be able to see the film unravel that tidbit miles ahead of when the director and producers predicted you will. He has lost his best friend, his wife, been forced into early retirement, and (outside of those he’s constantly bickering at) is always alone. When it becomes too much, he decides life isn’t worth fighting for anymore. Suicide is the only thing he desires now since there’s nothing left to want. As he tries, he has flashbacks of him as a young man, played by Truman Hanks, Tom’s son with Rita Wilson. Each attempt is stopped by a reason for him to be alive. He has been so selfish. Maybe not everything has to be centered around him.
At this time, he’s suddenly teeming with people forcing themselves into his life. Well, not only people. A feral cat makes his way onto Otto’s porch and eventually into his heart. The new neighbors across the street are a young couple Marisol (Mariana Treviño) and Tommy (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), who have two little girls and a baby boy on the way. He can’t break loose no matter how hard he tries to wiggle away from them. Marisol won’t allow him to. She sees the love inside of him and feels it’s her duty to bring it out again… with him kicking and screaming if need be. Memorable characters emerge throughout the film, but none as crucial as Treviño’s Marisol. And for the story, there isn’t a more fitting actress to have been cast. She’s loving, understanding and full of life, effortlessly passing those qualities onto Otto when he needs them most. He refers to most people as idiots but never Marisol. And in the end, he knows he has been the idiot all along for not seeing sooner that the Marisols of the world are out there, and it’s okay to want to meet them. His life was black and white before he met his wife Sonya (Rachel Keller), but now it’s time to give of himself and spread that color to others.
A bit of warning, this is possibly the most depressing film I’ve seen. It’s not for the unhappy or those at the end of their rope.
A Man Called Otto
Directed by: Marc Forster
Screenplay by: David Magee
Starring: Tom Hanks, Mariana Treviño, Rachel Keller, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Truman Hanks, Mike Birbiglia
Rated: PG-13 for mature thematic material involving suicide attempts, and language.
Run Time: 2h 6m
*Based upon the novel “A Man Called Ove” by Fredrik Backman
*And based on the film “A Man Called Ove” by Hannes Holm