A Man Called Otto

A Man Called Otto

Directed by Marc Forster

A Man Called Otto, starring Tom Hanks, touched the yearnings of two heartstrings in my cinematic soul.

First, there aren’t many films being produced lately that look deeply into the experience and meaning of ordinary lives. This film does that.

Second, in film (and in stories in general), deep grief over the loss of loved ones generally focuses on the loss of young people. When older people lose a loved one, the literary and societal expectations are that they stoically persevere, gently moving on with a patient, sad smile and perhaps a single tear, shed in isolation. This film examines grief and loss from the most common but most overlooked perspective: that of the elderly.

Otto, the not-so-gentle gentleman at the center of A Man Called Otto, has a large heart that is grumpy on the outside and broken on the inside. His losses have been great, his sorrows numerous, and his community has shrunk in the wake of his alienating sadness and anger.

Taken from the charming novel A Man Called Ove by Swedish author Fredrik Backman, this film shows us the sharp edges of a soft heart hidden in a curmudgeon who spends his days enforcing block association rules and visiting his wife’s grave. He has decided to give up on life until an unlikely friendship develops with a boisterous young family that moves in next door. He meets his match in quick-witted and very pregnant Marisol, leading to an unexpected friendship that will turn his world upside down, smoothing his rough edges so he can again act on the soft feelings in his heart, not just the broken edges.

A Man Called Otto is a film of quiet poignancy, about living life even as we grieve, and lightening the burdens we carry by shouldering the burdens of others.

Review by Anne F.