A Surprisingly Sincere Tom Hanks Showcase Of Emotional Proportions

Jan 23, 2023

At first glance, Tom Hanks’ new film, “A Man Called Otto,” comes off a bit too morbid for most. After all, not many people are going to want to dive headfirst into a film that tackles suicide. It’s just not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. But that concept actually becomes a vehicle for hope, acceptance, and gratitude in this quaint but bright movie directed by Marc Forster. This is a starring vehicle for Hanks, and for good reason, because even as he enters the last chapter of his career, he is still just as effective and quietly raw when given the right material. 
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“A Man Called Otto” follows the story of Otto (Hanks), a 60-year-old man who lives in a small gated community surrounded by all sorts of interesting and sometimes extremely animated neighbors. Following his beloved wife’s passing and his job forcing him to retire, he makes the choice to end his life—but what he doesn’t expect is how many times his brand new neighbors, a sweet but quirky young family with several children, will interrupt his attempts and inadvertently show him all the reasons he has to stick around. 
As our central character, it’s probably not a huge surprise that Tom Hanks is really endearing in this role. Despite his crotchety, stubborn ways, you understand why Marisol (the matriarch of the new neighbor family played by Mariana Treviño) keeps coming back and trying again with him, why the nearly whole neighborhood treats him with the care he so desperately needs. It’s obvious that, at minimum, Hanks would be convincing in the part. I mean, it’s Tom Hanks, and he’s never all-around bad. But he elevates the role with just enough anger in the right places for you to question if he’ll truly ever come around, which is crucial to the way the events of the film progress. Much of the movie hinges on his performance and he nails it, down to the person he turns into at the film’s conclusion. Hanks knows how to craft his character’s emotional metamorphosis in his face and body language, and he sells it in cinematographer Matthias Koenigswieser’s calculated close-ups and singular focus shots. There’s a reason Hanks has been in the business this long, and he continues to flex his veteran skills in “Otto,” where there are tons of opportunities to handcraft cathartic moments. Hanks doesn’t miss an opportunity to affect the audience. 
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In the same vein, Marisol is a scene-stealer, and she completely captivates in every scene she’s in. It doesn’t matter if she’s spitting a hilarious combo of English and Spanish in a comedic back and forth or baring her soul in the film’s most dramatic moments, she’s fierce with every choice. Treviño is the glue of this film, and if we need Hanks’ performance to be pitch-perfect, hers is even closer to flawless. A highly-regarded actress in Mexico, it’s clear she has a major American career coming to her after this film because it’s hard to not completely fall in love with her by the time the movie is over. She, too, doesn’t miss an opportunity to affect the audience, from her impeccable comedic timing to her most introspective asides or vulnerable pleas. She and Hanks are also incredibly well-matched as scene partners, and she can go toe-to-toe with him in a way that suggests on screen that they are ultimately equals, which is part of what makes them so inclined to connect. But they are, in the same breath, equals as actors and that makes their work together—which makes up a large majority of the film—so exciting to watch. 
The ensemble cast of neighbors—a group that couldn’t be more crucial to the film—ties the whole cast together in a way that feels both familiar and singular, like you yourself have lived next to these folks your whole lives but at the same time, you’ve not met anyone quite like them. Their casting is crucial to building the foundations around Otto for his 180-degree change of heart, and because of how well cast this group is, it helps make that moment near the film’s end that much more meaningful. As the film progresses, the audience realizes that the group of oddball neighbors are much more intertwined in Otto’s story than they thought, and they truly feel like a supporting net of personalities that create an unconventional family. 
The film’s structure is a bit clogged, which might be the only real issue worth critiquing about the surprisingly sincere movie. The story is set up in a way that weaves flashbacks in with the current timeline at moments where it is the most pertinent to reveal details of Otto’s past, a life that the audience and people around him only know so much about. The structure isn’t the issue, as the reveals all make sense in the narrative, but just that they pack a lot into the film using this tactic and it becomes dense. Strategies like this hinge on the calculated sparsity of their usage, so the inflated effect is really obvious when you watch the film. It could’ve possibly been helped by being more precious about which events in Otto’s past truly need their own moment, but ultimately, the fixing of this misstep lies mainly in David Magee’s script. It’s not a knockout punch for this film by any means, but it could’ve prompted a cleaner result. 
It would be a missed opportunity not to mention that this film is an American remake, and you know how those usually end up. The original film—a 2015 Swedish dramedy called “A Man Called Ove,” a title shared with the novel on which both films are based—leans slightly harder into the drama elements than this American version does. But despite that, this reimagination shouldn’t, for once, be relegated to the “skip” pile simply because it’s a remake. No, Hanks’ and Treviño’s performances alone make this reboot worth the watch, and it will tug at your heartstrings just the same as the original. It’s rare that we need two of essentially the same film, rarer than rare, but “A Man Called Otto” has earned a space in the list of worthy remakes for its big heart and emotionally charged performances that don’t skimp on the comedy.
“A Man Called Otto” arrives in select theaters on December 30.

Disclaimer: This story is auto-aggregated by a computer program and has not been created or edited by filmibee.
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