By Jess Fenton
29th December 2022

Elephant in the room: the film I'm about to review is an American, English-language remake of a beloved and highly successful Swedish film called 'A Man Called Ove' (2015) that in itself is an adaptation of the Fredrik Backman book of the same name. I have not seen said Swedish film, but after watching 'A Man Called Otto' I very much wish to. Unfortunately for me, it's simple human nature to love the first iteration you encounter, be it a film, a book versus movie, a cover of a song versus the original etc. I refuse to spend the next few paragraphs debating the quality of the original compared to the remake. I don't have the necessary knowledge of both materials - and quite frankly, I think it's pointless. This isn't a competition, nor is it an academic debate or a compare-and-contrast discussion. I loved 'A Man Called Otto' and I can only review it based on its individual merits and my experience. So here we go...

Otto (Tom Hanks, 'Elvis', 'Cast Away') is a grieving widower and recent retiree who decides that this mortal world no longer holds much for him. He's a stickler for the rules, abhors disobedience of them, and believes the vast majority of the populous are idiots. Each morning he completes his "rounds" - a trip around his block noting any and all broken rules from parking permits to the recycling bins and always encountering his collection of interesting neighbours. On one particular day he helps (not out of kindness but for the sake of his own sanity and the pristine footpath) his new neighbours park a car and moving trailer and thus sets off an unlikely and good-natured coercive friendship between Otto, Marisol (Mexican actress Mariana Treviño, 'Overboard', Netflix's 'Club de Cuervos'), her husband, two young daughters and impending son, all while also battling the vulture developers hungry for the neighbourhood Otto helped build.


Now to the $56,000 question - can Hollywood's most beloved, friendliest and possibly greatest actor convincingly portray a curmudgeon? Simply put; yes, yes he can. Next question: can an actress unknown (for the most part) to the English-speaking world steal your heart and make you laugh and cry at the same time? Answer: oh my god, yes! Cast Mariana is everything from now on, I beg of you! This gorgeous woman is just so earnest and oozes humanity, I want to eat her up.

'Otto', beautifully directed by Marc Forster ('Stranger Than Fiction', 2006) presents a wonderful and organic array of diversity thanks to the film's highlighting of the power of community and this microcosm of a street that represents the real world. There are people of varying colour, ability, neurodiversity and sexuality. None of these people are shoved down the audience's throat, they're just there, a part of the everyday fabric, just like in real life. Each thread is handled with grace, dignity and care. Otto himself, while it's never spelled out for you, lies somewhere on the spectrum and the film displays beautifully what happens when you take a beat not judge or shame but breathe, adjust and unfurl all they have to offer besides a perceived difference. Perhaps it's Forster himself being European that cuts the sharp corners off an American project and inject some of that sweet Swiss humility.

There are people of varying colour, ability, neurodiversity and sexuality. None of these people are shoved down the audience's throat, they're just there, a part of the everyday fabric, just like in real life.

A wonderful ensemble under the impeccable steward of Hanks and nurtured by Forster has created a truly special film that delivers the tears (oh my god, the tears!) and the laughs in spades. They just don't make films like this any more. They've been missed.

Jess' Nitpick of the Week: As a sickeningly huge John Hughes fan, I was taken aback and audibly disgusted by a near-total rip-off of a scene from 'She's Having a Baby' (1988), right down to the choice in soundtrack, but you can chalk that up to a bias if you must.

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