Otto is a grump who’s given up on life following the loss of his wife and wants to end it all. When a young family moves in nearby, he meets his match in quick-witted Marisol, leading to a friendship that will turn his world around.
As Jerry Maguire once wrote, “We live in a cynical world.” He was right and we are worse for it. We’re barraged with dire news by a beast that constantly needs to be fed, a 24-hour new cycle that feeds off despair. Far too often, we put our trust in someone or something only to find we’ve been duped by a duplicitous person or an underhanded scheme. The old maxim goes, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” What happens when you are fooled 10, 20, 100 times? I think it is in our nature to hope, to want to believe people are inherently good and our institutions sound; so we can be forgiven for trusting in things and people when experience teaches us to be weary. We need to believe in something, otherwise what’s the point of living?
That being the case, films like Marc Forster’s “A Man Called Otto” are the kinds of movies people tend to dismiss out of hand. It wears its heart on its sleeve, it paints its moral in broad strokes and there’s a predictability to it cynics will scoff at. The world loudly tells us its themes of kindness and redemption are outdated concepts that, if they exist, are rare. Be that as it may, I would argue that films like this are essential, reminders that nothing is more powerful or meaningful than kindness and courtesy and that perpetuating that message is vital to our survival.
A remake of the Swedish film “A Man Called Ove,” an adaptation of Fredrik Backman’s novel of the same name, Tom Hanks takes on the role of Otto, a bitter widower who’s yet to get over the death of his wife, a man with too much time and anger on his hands. Watching over the cul-du-sac where he lives like a hawk, he berates his neighbors if their garbage cans lids aren’t on firmly and harangues any errant driver who has the temerity to disobey the community’s rules of the road. He’s content to wallow in his misery. This is all disrupted when a lively family moves in across the street, initially drawing Otto’s ire over the father, Tommy’s (Maunual Garcia-Rulfo), inability to parallel park. The old man doesn’t realize that he doesn’t stand a chance in the face of Marisol (Mariana Trevino), a force of nature who thrives on adversity and exudes optimism. She recognizes the hurt Otto carries and combats it with the tenaciousness of a bulldog, one kind gesture and one delivered meal at a time.
Through flashbacks, we find out how Otto met his wife, why they were childless and her tragic fate. It’s understandable why he contemplates suicide. And when each of his attempts is foiled by odd twists of fate, some of the film’s best moments, it culminates in Otto realizing perhaps life has a few things left in store for him. Forster doesn’t allow these moments, or any others for that matter, to become maudlin, keeping the pathos at a minimum. This sincere approach, mirrored by the efforts of the fine cast, helps sell this particular brand of soap.
Do I have to tell you that Otto becomes enamored with Tommy and Marisol’s daughters Luna (Christiana Montoya) and Abbie (Alessandra Perez)? Or that he reconciles with an old friend he had a falling out with? I’m sure you won’t be surprised when he has to rally his neighbors to fight a rather rickety plot device involving a shady eviction.
No, “Otto” contains no surprises and I’m fine with that. I’m not foolish enough to think that kind people don’t exist or that random acts of kindness don’t occur. The world would fall apart completely if they didn’t. But they certainly aren’t touted enough. Films like “Otto” are necessary, and I would argue vital, to combat the constant barrage of overwhelming negativity that buffets us. So instead of disparaging stories like this sight unseen, take a chance and take some comfort in the messages they contain. I promise, it won’t hurt a bit.
Tom Hanks … need I say more?
If you need more convincing, here’s the story of “A Man Called Otto.”
Hanks plays Otto, a curmudgeon whose heart seems to be smaller than the Grinch’s. Otto calls out all of his neighbors for any and all “infractions,” scowling at those who dare to make eye contact.
And then, if illegal parking, dog piddles and music from cars wasn’t bad enough, he now has new neighbors … and they have kids. Could it get any worse for Otto?
Actually, it could.
To read Pam’s full review in The Daily Journal, go to https://www.daily-journal.com/life/entertainment/reel-talk-grumpy-otto-reminds-us-we-all-matter/article_83888a42-91ce-11ed-b5ad-03d8aba9eb72.html