“A MAN CALLED OTTO”
Starring Tom Hanks, Mariana Trevino, Rachel Keller, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo
Screenplay by David Magee
Based on the 2012 book “A Man Called Ove” by Frederick Backman and the 2015 film “A Man Called Ove” written and directed by Hannes Holm
Directed by Marc Forster
Produced by Fredrik Wikstrom Nicastro, Rita Wilson, Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman
Cinematography by Matthias Koenigswieser
Edited by Matt Cheese
Music by Thomas Newman

By Matt Neufeld
Jan. 14, 2023

“A Man Called Otto” is an excellent film, a beautifully heartfelt, heartening, humane and emotional film filled with positive, life-affirming optimistic messages and themes, and it’s an overall expertly-crafted movie on all levels that everyone should see in the theaters.

The messages delivered in “A Man Called Otto” are simple, just as they are with the similarly-excellent, positive, meaningful and thoroughly well-crafted films “The Fabelmans,” “Avatar: The Way of Water” and “Armageddon Time,” all of which are still showing in theaters nationwide as of early January, 2023. And these similar, simple, primary messages inherent in all of these films is the overriding, essential importance of, simply, some of the essential elements and building blocks of life: the love of life itself, love, family, friends, understanding and relating to people on a positive level, optimism, positivity, standing up for what is right, battling against those who are wrong, standing up for yourself, and destroying evil, ignorance, violence, hate and racism.

There’s no coincidence that these movies, and a few others that also focus on similar themes on a consistently excellent level, are among the best films of 2022—these movies focus, on a human level, and in an intelligent and mature manner, on, simply, what is most important in life. But what sets these better films apart from the rest of the filmic masses is that these universal themes, morals and messages are not delivered buried under mountains of thunderous, overdone, clanking, clanging, cliched special effects, cliched fight scenes, stilted dialogue, tired direction, horrendous over-production, depressing negativity, unnecessary violence and overly cynical, snarky snarkiness. All of these negatives are what continually bring down far too many feature films in recent years, at a surprisingly, bizarrely consistent pace.

Thus, “A Man Called Otto” finds itself ending up as one of the best films of 2022. Seriously. Although the film is getting its nationwide wide release starting on Friday, Jan. 13, 2023, “Otto” had a limited run at the end of December, 2022, so the movie qualifies as, technically, a 2022 release. Alas, the movie didn’t get adequately seen or promoted in the right way in 2022, and it’s been subsequently shut out of the 2022 awards season—which is ridiculous and stupid, even, since “A Man Called Otto” deserves to be in the running for numerous awards. After all, as noted, this movie is just so much better, smarter, meaningful, enjoyable and entertaining than most of the other generally crappy, cliched and flat-out stupid movies dumped on a tired, exhausted moviegoing public in 2022.

So take this simple advice amid these frigid, gray, hazy, pale, shady and cold winter time months: Go see “A Man Called Otto.” In this wintertime, hear this movie calling you out to the theaters, and heed that call.

It’s not really cliched to say that “Otto” will tug, pull and move your heartstrings, because that’s exactly what this film does—the movie moves you. And it’s not really cliched to say that “Otto” will make viewers laugh and cry—because that’s also what this film does–there are moments of levity, brevity and outright comedy, and there are moments of serious drama and emotions that will prompt one to get out their handkerchiefs, indeed. And that’s a good thing–because that’s what life is–a rich, befuddling, confounding, confusing mixed bag of ups and downs; ins and outs; laughs and tears; good, bad and ugly; war and peace; love and hate; comedy, tragedy and drama.

And our better, more intelligent movies are able to convey this crazy, rich tapestry of life with those attendant messages, letting us know that, essentially, life is not easy, life isn’t always able to be neatly wrapped up in pretty little boxes, wrapping paper and ribbons, life isn’t just days of wine and roses, and, often but not always, life can seem like it’s being lived in one big overwhelming mad, mad, mad, mad world.

These deeper thoughts are among the truly deeper thoughts that “Otto” will raise in moviegoers’ minds, hearts and souls because this movie is so rich in emotion, thought, insight, perception and feeling, its messages will indeed resonate, reach into your heart and heartstrings, and prompt some profound reflection. And, again, that’s only a good thing. And yes, the movie is that good and it’s that moving and emotional.

“A Man Called Otto” tells the story of a true lost soul of a man, the poor, depressed, curmudgeonly, cranky and grumpy older man named Otto Anderson, who is played, as always, expertly by Tom Hanks in yet another winning, moving and always-entertaining performance. Hanks pulls off an amazing, talented acting feat here–bafflingly, he somehow makes Otto, who is a loner, hermit-like, get-off-my-lawn-like neighborhood crank, still somewhat likeable and carable, despite Otto’s many obvious, un-hidden character and social faults. What Hanks is able to do with the character of Otto is find the deep-rooted, inherent, still somewhat living humanity that rests somewhere deep in the heart of the man, and, in a properly subtle, underhanded manner, Hanks mixes that simmering, just-below-the-surface humanity with Otto’s other, more obvious boiling-over crankiness and grumpiness.

This is what the best acting does—the actor reaches deep down into his or her character’s inner psyche, finds that mixed bag of emotions that actually rests within every human on the planet, and conveys that conflicting mixture of personality traits in a consistent, even-handed, believable manner. Thus, Otto, as played by Hanks, comes across as an actual, real, relatable, understandable human being–and not a cookie-cutter, formulaic, cliched super-human caricature.

Otto is living on fumes in a nice, well-structured Pittsburgh neighborhood. Otto is not unwise and he is insightful, and smart, even, despite his overriding despair, grief and world weariness. But, still, too consumed by personal grief, he sees the world as increasingly, negatively closing in on him and his structured, rigid, cloistered world and life. He’s right on some levels, actually, but he’s way way off on too many other levels.

Fortunately for Otto, a new family of neighbors moves in across the street from him and, just in time, quite literally and figuratively, this wonderful, loving, energetic, beautiful and wholly lovable family saves Otto’s life. Led by the amazingly loving, lovable and perceptive mom, Marisol, this great family sees something in Otto and, led by Marisol, who is somewhat of a living, breathing saint, in a way, they set out to save, redeem and lift up Otto.

It’s all just beautifully written, directed, acted, filmed, edited and scored by a cast and crew that’s obviously inspired by the inherently inspirational story, characters, character development and screenplay.

The subsequent ways, means and manners in which the heroic, energetic and positive Marisol, her goofy but loving husband and their two absolutely adorable, overwhelmingly cute and precious pre-teen daughters proceed to coax Otto out of his shell, bring him back to life, bring him back to the real living world, welcome Otto into their family and their lives and, simply, rescue Otto from losing his grip on life itself, are just positively, optimistically, movingly emotional, heartwarming, heart lifting and, well, beautiful.

The rescue and subsequent redemption of Otto by Marisol, her family and the family of friends and neighbors of Otto is just strikingly moving. It’s also positive, optimistic, meaningful and uplifting. A varied, mixed group of people come together not only to save Otto, but to save their neighborhood and save themselves. This is what people should be doing all the time–in the movies and in real life. Yes, there are many actual positive, uplifting stories in the movies and in real life–but there needs to be more of them. And there needs to be more positive movies and stories like “A Man Called Otto.”

Hanks, as noted, delivers an exceptional performance as Otto. But he is aided in the film by an equally exceptional set of performances by a cast that is just performing at equally consistently high levels. Everyone delivers excellently in this movie. However, a special notice needs to be made for actress Mariana Trevino, whose performance as Marisol is a career-establishing, wonderfully eloquent, moving and energetic performance. Trevino just jumps off the screen with an energy and exuberance that is not only talented, but she delivers a performance where her positive, optimistic characterization of Marisol rightfully and accurately acts as an opposite to Otto’s negative and pessimistic grumpiness. To watch Marisol–who perceptively sees through Otto’s outer shell to find the inner heart and soul of this depressed man–and Otto interact, grow to understand each other, and grow into a true adult and caring friendship among each other, is truly remarkable and inspirational. Trevino holds her own against Hanks, just as Marisol holds her own against Otto. It’s just an amazing set of acting performances to behold, be inspired by, and enjoy.

Hanks, Trevino and the rest of the talented cast are ably supported by an equally touching, caring, intelligent and insightful screenplay by David Magee. And guess what? “A Man Called Otto” just happens to also be one of those rare cases where the film stands tall as an excellent film–and is also based on a previous film and book. “Otto” is an American remake of the 2015 Swedish film “A Man Called Ove,” which was written and directed by Hannes Holm. And that 2015 film was based on the 2012 book “A Man Called Ove” by Fredrik Backman.

Adding to the acting excellence is soft-toned, beautifully lit and photographed cinematography from Matthias Koenigswieser; appropriately un-hurried, normally-paced editing from editor Matt Cheese; and an exquisite, down-home, beautiful musical score from Thomas Newman.

So major kudos and congrats to Magee and “Otto” director Marc Forster. Forster directs “Otto” with the same care, concern and love that infuses every other aspect of the movie. Forster layers “Otto” with, simply, love—love itself; love of life; and the various types of love that fill all of our lives. Love among paramours, lovers and other strangers, yes, but also love among family, friends, relatives, neighbors and even among acquaintances. “Otto” is a movie lovingly made about love, filled with love, and made with love.

And among all of that love is that all-important, overriding message that love can and does exist deep in the heart, mind and soul of even the most depressed and despairing people among us, and it should always be a continuing mission in life for all of us to seek out that love, find it, build upon it and develop that love into something greater, bigger and beautiful. If Otto can be saved, the movie tells us, than perhaps all of us can be saved. Because if Otto can learn the value of human life, maybe we can, too.

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“A MAN CALLED OTTO”
Starring Tom Hanks, Mariana Trevino, Rachel Keller, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo
Screenplay by David Magee
Based on the 2012 book “A Man Called Ove” by Frederick Backman and the 2015 film “A Man Called Ove” written and directed by Hannes Holm
Directed by Marc Forster
Produced by Fredrik Wikstrom Nicastro, Rita Wilson, Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman
Cinematography by Matthias Koenigswieser
Edited by Matt Cheese
Music by Thomas Newman

By Matt Neufeld
Jan. 14, 2023

“A Man Called Otto” is an excellent film, a beautifully heartfelt, heartening, humane and emotional film filled with positive, life-affirming optimistic messages and themes, and it’s an overall expertly-crafted movie on all levels that everyone should see in the theaters.

The messages delivered in “A Man Called Otto” are simple, just as they are with the similarly-excellent, positive, meaningful and thoroughly well-crafted films “The Fabelmans,” “Avatar: The Way of Water” and “Armageddon Time,” all of which are still showing in theaters nationwide as of early January, 2023. And these similar, simple, primary messages inherent in all of these films is the overriding, essential importance of, simply, some of the essential elements and building blocks of life: the love of life itself, love, family, friends, understanding and relating to people on a positive level, optimism, positivity, standing up for what is right, battling against those who are wrong, standing up for yourself, and destroying evil, ignorance, violence, hate and racism.

There’s no coincidence that these movies, and a few others that also focus on similar themes on a consistently excellent level, are among the best films of 2022—these movies focus, on a human level, and in an intelligent and mature manner, on, simply, what is most important in life. But what sets these better films apart from the rest of the filmic masses is that these universal themes, morals and messages are not delivered buried under mountains of thunderous, overdone, clanking, clanging, cliched special effects, cliched fight scenes, stilted dialogue, tired direction, horrendous over-production, depressing negativity, unnecessary violence and overly cynical, snarky snarkiness. All of these negatives are what continually bring down far too many feature films in recent years, at a surprisingly, bizarrely consistent pace.

Thus, “A Man Called Otto” finds itself ending up as one of the best films of 2022. Seriously. Although the film is getting its nationwide wide release starting on Friday, Jan. 13, 2023, “Otto” had a limited run at the end of December, 2022, so the movie qualifies as, technically, a 2022 release. Alas, the movie didn’t get adequately seen or promoted in the right way in 2022, and it’s been subsequently shut out of the 2022 awards season—which is ridiculous and stupid, even, since “A Man Called Otto” deserves to be in the running for numerous awards. After all, as noted, this movie is just so much better, smarter, meaningful, enjoyable and entertaining than most of the other generally crappy, cliched and flat-out stupid movies dumped on a tired, exhausted moviegoing public in 2022.

So take this simple advice amid these frigid, gray, hazy, pale, shady and cold winter time months: Go see “A Man Called Otto.” In this wintertime, hear this movie calling you out to the theaters, and heed that call.

It’s not really cliched to say that “Otto” will tug, pull and move your heartstrings, because that’s exactly what this film does—the movie moves you. And it’s not really cliched to say that “Otto” will make viewers laugh and cry—because that’s also what this film does–there are moments of levity, brevity and outright comedy, and there are moments of serious drama and emotions that will prompt one to get out their handkerchiefs, indeed. And that’s a good thing–because that’s what life is–a rich, befuddling, confounding, confusing mixed bag of ups and downs; ins and outs; laughs and tears; good, bad and ugly; war and peace; love and hate; comedy, tragedy and drama.

And our better, more intelligent movies are able to convey this crazy, rich tapestry of life with those attendant messages, letting us know that, essentially, life is not easy, life isn’t always able to be neatly wrapped up in pretty little boxes, wrapping paper and ribbons, life isn’t just days of wine and roses, and, often but not always, life can seem like it’s being lived in one big overwhelming mad, mad, mad, mad world.

These deeper thoughts are among the truly deeper thoughts that “Otto” will raise in moviegoers’ minds, hearts and souls because this movie is so rich in emotion, thought, insight, perception and feeling, its messages will indeed resonate, reach into your heart and heartstrings, and prompt some profound reflection. And, again, that’s only a good thing. And yes, the movie is that good and it’s that moving and emotional.

“A Man Called Otto” tells the story of a true lost soul of a man, the poor, depressed, curmudgeonly, cranky and grumpy older man named Otto Anderson, who is played, as always, expertly by Tom Hanks in yet another winning, moving and always-entertaining performance. Hanks pulls off an amazing, talented acting feat here–bafflingly, he somehow makes Otto, who is a loner, hermit-like, get-off-my-lawn-like neighborhood crank, still somewhat likeable and carable, despite Otto’s many obvious, un-hidden character and social faults. What Hanks is able to do with the character of Otto is find the deep-rooted, inherent, still somewhat living humanity that rests somewhere deep in the heart of the man, and, in a properly subtle, underhanded manner, Hanks mixes that simmering, just-below-the-surface humanity with Otto’s other, more obvious boiling-over crankiness and grumpiness.

This is what the best acting does—the actor reaches deep down into his or her character’s inner psyche, finds that mixed bag of emotions that actually rests within every human on the planet, and conveys that conflicting mixture of personality traits in a consistent, even-handed, believable manner. Thus, Otto, as played by Hanks, comes across as an actual, real, relatable, understandable human being–and not a cookie-cutter, formulaic, cliched super-human caricature.

Otto is living on fumes in a nice, well-structured Pittsburgh neighborhood. Otto is not unwise and he is insightful, and smart, even, despite his overriding despair, grief and world weariness. But, still, too consumed by personal grief, he sees the world as increasingly, negatively closing in on him and his structured, rigid, cloistered world and life. He’s right on some levels, actually, but he’s way way off on too many other levels.

Fortunately for Otto, a new family of neighbors moves in across the street from him and, just in time, quite literally and figuratively, this wonderful, loving, energetic, beautiful and wholly lovable family saves Otto’s life. Led by the amazingly loving, lovable and perceptive mom, Marisol, this great family sees something in Otto and, led by Marisol, who is somewhat of a living, breathing saint, in a way, they set out to save, redeem and lift up Otto.

It’s all just beautifully written, directed, acted, filmed, edited and scored by a cast and crew that’s obviously inspired by the inherently inspirational story, characters, character development and screenplay.

The subsequent ways, means and manners in which the heroic, energetic and positive Marisol, her goofy but loving husband and their two absolutely adorable, overwhelmingly cute and precious pre-teen daughters proceed to coax Otto out of his shell, bring him back to life, bring him back to the real living world, welcome Otto into their family and their lives and, simply, rescue Otto from losing his grip on life itself, are just positively, optimistically, movingly emotional, heartwarming, heart lifting and, well, beautiful.

The rescue and subsequent redemption of Otto by Marisol, her family and the family of friends and neighbors of Otto is just strikingly moving. It’s also positive, optimistic, meaningful and uplifting. A varied, mixed group of people come together not only to save Otto, but to save their neighborhood and save themselves. This is what people should be doing all the time–in the movies and in real life. Yes, there are many actual positive, uplifting stories in the movies and in real life–but there needs to be more of them. And there needs to be more positive movies and stories like “A Man Called Otto.”

Hanks, as noted, delivers an exceptional performance as Otto. But he is aided in the film by an equally exceptional set of performances by a cast that is just performing at equally consistently high levels. Everyone delivers excellently in this movie. However, a special notice needs to be made for actress Mariana Trevino, whose performance as Marisol is a career-establishing, wonderfully eloquent, moving and energetic performance. Trevino just jumps off the screen with an energy and exuberance that is not only talented, but she delivers a performance where her positive, optimistic characterization of Marisol rightfully and accurately acts as an opposite to Otto’s negative and pessimistic grumpiness. To watch Marisol–who perceptively sees through Otto’s outer shell to find the inner heart and soul of this depressed man–and Otto interact, grow to understand each other, and grow into a true adult and caring friendship among each other, is truly remarkable and inspirational. Trevino holds her own against Hanks, just as Marisol holds her own against Otto. It’s just an amazing set of acting performances to behold, be inspired by, and enjoy.

Hanks, Trevino and the rest of the talented cast are ably supported by an equally touching, caring, intelligent and insightful screenplay by David Magee. And guess what? “A Man Called Otto” just happens to also be one of those rare cases where the film stands tall as an excellent film–and is also based on a previous film and book. “Otto” is an American remake of the 2015 Swedish film “A Man Called Ove,” which was written and directed by Hannes Holm. And that 2015 film was based on the 2012 book “A Man Called Ove” by Fredrik Backman.

Adding to the acting excellence is soft-toned, beautifully lit and photographed cinematography from Matthias Koenigswieser; appropriately un-hurried, normally-paced editing from editor Matt Cheese; and an exquisite, down-home, beautiful musical score from Thomas Newman.

So major kudos and congrats to Magee and “Otto” director Marc Forster. Forster directs “Otto” with the same care, concern and love that infuses every other aspect of the movie. Forster layers “Otto” with, simply, love—love itself; love of life; and the various types of love that fill all of our lives. Love among paramours, lovers and other strangers, yes, but also love among family, friends, relatives, neighbors and even among acquaintances. “Otto” is a movie lovingly made about love, filled with love, and made with love.

And among all of that love is that all-important, overriding message that love can and does exist deep in the heart, mind and soul of even the most depressed and despairing people among us, and it should always be a continuing mission in life for all of us to seek out that love, find it, build upon it and develop that love into something greater, bigger and beautiful. If Otto can be saved, the movie tells us, than perhaps all of us can be saved. Because if Otto can learn the value of human life, maybe we can, too.

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