Meet Otto (Tom Hanks). Otto is a no nonsense, serious man. He values discipline, rules and order and makes sure people abide by these. He is a man who would buy a rope to end his life, but also go out of his way to make sure he is being charged the proper amount for said piece of rope.

Otto is going through a late life crisis. He has lived a life filled with numerous challenges, but always found a way to rise above them.

The most recent of these was losing his long-time love, wife Sonya (Rachel Keller). After also being let go from his job, Otto is left with grief and a sense of uselessness which pushes him quite literally to the end of his rope.

Audiences first met Otto’s Swedish version Ove in 2015. A Man Called Ove was a critical success and garnered much attention during awards season including being nominated for Best Foreign Language Film of the Year at the Oscars.

As so often happens with successful international movies, the obligatory Anglo version soon arrives, and comparisons are begged for. With Otto and Ove, it is worth mentioning they are both similar in structure yet differ greatly in spirit.

A Man Called Otto is however better than Downhill is to Force Majeure (later called Turist) but does not create a classic the way The Departed stands with Internal Affairs.

A Man Called Ove succeeds in carefully balancing the difficult subject matter with strategically placed levity. On the other hand, A Man Called Otto fumbles these moments resulting in odd tonal inconsistencies. Director Marc Forster is reverential in his dealing with the topic of suicide, but prolonged time spent in thematic territory makes for jerky tonal shifts.

In any case, A Man Called Otto does offer food for thought and enough comedic moments in between interrupted suicide attempts for entertainment and to avoid becoming too dark. (Even though it is too dark to calmly watch with younger audiences).

The performances are solid, even though perennial nice guy Tom Hanks is oddly cast as a curmudgeon. Stealing every scene, is Mariana Treviño as Marisol. The grand larceny is such that the movie might as well have been called A Woman Called Marisol.

Marisol and her family have moved in next to Otto and need a little help getting settled into their new lives. Through different situations that include driving lessons, adventures in babysitting, a peculiar cat, and visits to the emergency room, Otto and the family form a familial bond.  With her performance, Treviño offers the heart, emotion, comedy, and perspective the movie is built on. Otto is more important to his community than he realizes. Marisol opens his eyes and heart to this realization. She is the life of the story.

A Man Called Otto also shines light on a relatable situation for many people in their golden years. Too often society and its institutions fail our older population, leaving them scrambling for purpose, empathy, and companionship. Furthermore, necessities such as housing and healthcare become luxuries that many older generations cannot afford.

These hardships are difficult to overcome. Otto is helped to realize he still has the power to prevail and help others in similar situations do the same. It is a changing world for everyone, and those who have the capacity to keep up also have the responsibility to make sure no one is left behind.

A Man Called Otto avoids insulting its Swedish counterpart by being a close enough copy. This unfortunately means there is no reason for its existence. Treviño’s performance however definitely deserves a viewing. The extended final act of the 2022 version does allow for further closure. Other instances are cut short from the original version, depriving audiences of meaningful connections. Ultimately the balancing act plunges the movie into mediocre territory.

Hollywood remakes will continue. A Man Called Otto proves to be unnecessary in a changing world where international movies are more easily accessible than ever. For audiences that have kept up with these changes, make sure no audiences are left behind and have them meet Ove and En man som heter Ove instead.

Borja’s rating: 6/10

What do you think of A Man Called Otto? let us know in the comments below. Stream A Man Called Otto on Netflix.

Please check out other Sunshine State Cineplex reviews here!

Leave a Reply