Movie review: Tom Hanks is a grumpy old man in 'A Man Called Otto'

Fred Hawson

Posted at Jan 27 2023 05:00 AM

Tom Hanks in 'A Man Called Otto.' Handout
Tom Hanks in 'A Man Called Otto.' Handout

Otto Anderson (Tom Hanks) was an aloof and cantankerous 63-year-old widower who lived in a suburb of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Since he lost his wife and was retired from his job at the steel company, he had become very irritable to all his neighbors. He constantly mourned his dear wife Sonya (Rachel Keller), bittersweet memories of whom he relived in his mind during the times that he would attempt to end his life but never succeeding. 

An over-friendly Mexican family moved in next door, who did not hesitate to knock on Otto's door. The husband Tommy (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo) kept on borrowing tools and other stuff from Otto. The wife Marisol (Mariana Treviño) was pregnant with their third child and frequently requested Otto to help babysit her daughters or teach her how to drive a car. Despite Otto's notorious grumpiness, he would reluctantly agree to help out. 

After poor reviews of his recent performances as Gepetto in the live-action version of Disney's "Pinocchio" and as Col. Tom Parker in "Elvis," Tom Hanks ends 2022 with a winner. His portrayal of the ornery Otto was right up his alley of drama and comedy. The role felt familiar, something Hanks had done before. Perhaps it was because Otto's reminiscences of Sonya called back scenes of another Hank's classic "Forrest Gump" and his beloved Jenny. 

The role of young Otto in the flashback scenes was played by Tom Hanks' 27 year-old son, Truman Hanks. The younger Hanks had been working behind the camera before, but this is his first time on camera, his feature film acting debut. He gave a sensitive, heartfelt performance as young Otto, with believable romantic chemistry with his screen partner Rachel Keller. His young Otto made us understand why old Otto turned out the way he did.

This is an American remake of a 2015 Swedish film nominated for Best Foreign Language Film in the Oscars 2016, Hannes Holm's "A Man Called Ove," adapted from a 2012 Swedish novel of the same title by Fredrik Backman. The original Iranian neighbor Parvane was turned into a Mexican, Marisol. A winsome Mariana Trevino almost single-handedly lifted the spirits this film with her delightful and heartwarming portrayal of this wonderful character. 

This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."