The core idea of the movie A Man Called Otto, starring Tom Hanks, is pretty simplistic, and on paper, it has that sugary feel-good movie vibe. But director Marc Forster and writer David Magee’s attempt to narrate the whole story from the point of view of the central protagonist helps the movie a lot in having a different texture. And somewhere, they made the viewer approach the movie from the heart rather than analyzing its template nature.
Otto Anderson, a grumpy old man who lost his wife recently, is the central character of this movie. He is very particular about obeying rules and having discipline in life. Thus most people in his workplace and neighborhood didn’t like him, and he also was unable to tolerate people who were nice to him. A Man Called Otto shows us the events happening in the post-retirement life of Otto, with several unexpected people showing up in his life.
The lack of concern and the generalized hate in Otto somewhere makes him that unlikeable neighbor. And from the very first supermarket scene itself, Forster establishes the character’s adamant nature and reluctance to blend in. It is those beautiful flashbacks about Otto’s love life, which somehow reminded me of Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise, that brighten the mood of the movie, and you gradually start to empathize with Otto. They don’t try to change Otto drastically, and even when he cares for humans and animals, the frown on his face is not disappearing.
Tom Hanks’ way of showing Otto’s evolution without making too many changes in the set of expressions is one of the primary reasons why the movie feels real. Otto’s “people are idiots” attitude is kind of there in Hanks’ expressions, even when he blends in with Marisol’s kids or when he supports Malcolm. It was those smooth transitions that made his performance look moving on the screen. Truman Hanks, who played the younger version of Otto somewhere, reminded me of Aamir Khan from Laal Singh Chaddha, the official adaptation of Hanks’ Forrest Gump. Mariana Treviño was really lovely as the Mexican neighbor Marisol. Rachel Keller plays the role of Otto’s wife, Sonya.
Marc Forster is not really trying to tweak the structure heavily. In fact, the movie’s central conflict isn’t that evident or solid. You, as an audience, are pretty much aware of the fact that this man with poor socializing skills is definitely going to evolve by the time the movie ends. But the selection of events that makes him a good individual creates the difference. The parallel incorporation of Otto’s love story works for the movie as it generates a sense of optimism, which gradually helps us empathize with Otto.
A Man Called Otto is an all-heart drama that uses the impeccable talent of its actors to rise above the story cliches. The sweet feel the movie gives you is not really coming from any escapist goodness element that is hard to find in real life. By blending goodness and grumpiness perfectly in a predictable story, A Man Called Otto puts a warm and empathetic smile on your face.
By blending goodness and grumpiness perfectly in a predictable story, A Man Called Otto puts a warm and empathetic smile on your face.
Green: Recommended Content
Orange: The In-Between Ones
Red: Not Recommended