A MAN CALLED OTTO: 3 STARS. “Hanks goes full-grump, with a hint of humanity.”
No one can play unlikable-with-a-hidden-heart-of-gold like Tom Hanks. Now in theatres, “A Man Called Otto,” is a sentimental Mean Old Man redemption movie that showcases the actor’s ability to transcend even the most predictable material.
When we first meet Otto Anderson (Hanks) he is the epitome of a grumpy old man. Recently retired, he spends his days making sure his neighbours in their suburban Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania cul de sac obey community rules. According to Otto, his neighbours are idiots who don’t recycle properly and never display their parking passes. “The whole neighbourhood is falling apart these days,” he grumbles.
The recent passing of his life-long love, wife Sonya (Rachel Keller), has made him bitter, angry at the world. “Nothing works,” he says at her grave site, “now that you’re gone.”
Lost and despondent, he makes several attempts to take his own life and join Sonya in the after world, but is interrupted by circumstance or the loud knocking on his front door by his new neighbours, a young, vivacious Mexican-American family, parents Marisol (Mariana Treviño) and Tommy (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo) and their adorable kids.
With new life on the street, Otto slowly lets his guard down, opening up to the possibility of living life without Sonya.
A mix of sadness and hope, of tears tempered by laughs, “A Man Called Otto’s” path is predictable, but elevated by its two central performances.
As Otto, Hanks is a man damaged by life. Hard knocks have dented him, tamping down his true nature. What is left is a hard shell, dinged by circumstance, but rather than go full-grump, Hanks allows his softer side to seep through. That’s the thing that makes Otto human and not a caricature, and Hanks’s well-established nice-guy reputation goes a long way to keeping us on Otto’s side.
The film’s beating heart, however, is Treviño as Marisol. As a counterbalance to Ottos’s curmudgeonly behaviour, she is empathy and kindness personified. She radiates warmth, and eventually melts Otto’s icy façade.
“A Man Called Otto,” a remake of the Swedish film “A Man Called Ove” from director Hannes Holm, is a tearjerking story of redemption that tries a bit too hard to strum the heartstrings, but, thanks to the performances, still manages to find resonate, emotional moments.