A MAN CALLED OTTO
Starring: Tom Hanks, Mariana Treviño, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Cameron Britton, Juanita Jennings, Mack Bayda, Christiana Montoya, Alessandra Perez, Peter Lawson Jones, and Rachel Keller
Director: Marc Forster
It’s a tall task to make America’s Dad Tom Hanks a grumpy bastard, and to create such sweetness out of the morbidity touched upon in A Man Called Otto. But man, did director Marc Forster tell a touching story with this one. His use of setting to unravel the title character’s life story throughout the film is a highlight, alongside one of this awards season’s most underrated performances in Mariana Treviño. The fact that she hasn’t sniffed Best Supporting Actress contention is beyond me. She is an utter force of nature and the cog that keeps this heart-tugger of a movie moving.
Having never encountered the source material on which it’s based, I can’t say whether A Man Called Otto is better or worse than what preceded it, but as its own movie, it’s perfectly fine (if a tad undercooked). There’s nothing particularly special about it, but there’s nothing especially wrong with it either, apart from some strangely placed flashback sequences here and there. Tom Hanks and Mariana Treviño are definitely the stars, and they do well together, but nothing in the story sets it apart from or above other films like it. That said, the emotional moments do work when it makes the effort.
If you haven’t seen the original Swedish film, perhaps you’ll be touched or moved by A Man Called Otto. The cast is mostly likable and the story is sweet, but in comparison to the original, it just feels like far too much is missing. Along with that, it’s hard to buy Tom Hanks as a curmudgeonly old man, although I have no complaints about his acting. It’s still a sweet film, but one that could have benefitted by adding more depth to the characters.