Tom Hanks Shines in Formulaic but Delightful ‘A Man Called Otto’

Ben Friedman


Move over Clint Eastwood, Hollywood has found its new grumpy icon in Otto Anderson. Portrayed by America’s sweetheart, Tom Hanks, Otto is an ill-tempered, suicidal widower living in the suburbs of Pittsburgh. One day he meets his match when Marisol (Mariana Treviño), a pregnant woman moves in next door along with her husband and two kids. Her positivity stands in juxtaposition to Otto’s dour persona, forcing Otto to confront the depression that consumes him.


To say A Man Called Otto – which is based on the 2015 Swedish film “A Man Called Ove” -- is formulaic would be an understatement. The story of an older man discovering a newfound passion for life because of the people around him is nearly identical to films such as Up, Gran Torino, & The Intouchables. But if the formula ain’t broke, why fix it? A Man Called Otto’s storytelling simplicity grants Tom Hanks’s charisma to consume the film.


From beginning to end, Hanks shines as Otto. In a performance that would feel ridiculous coming from many other actors, Hanks’s screen presence grounds the film. Where other actors would overplay the grumpiness for laughs, Hanks’s performance is quite understated. Otto is never a caricature of a stern, old man; instead, Hanks gives him an emotional depth that feels tangible, allowing the audience to relate to the hardships he’s experienced. Supporting Hanks is a screenplay penned by David Magee (Finding Neverland, Mary Poppins Returns) whose sincerity counterbalances the cynicism of its titular character.



The story relies on flashback sequences that showcase a younger Otto meeting and falling in love with his wife. In true Hollywood fashion, young Otto is played by Truman Hanks, who bears a strong resemblance to his father, yet lacks his acting chops. The flashback sequences are overly cheesy and romanticized, but are played so earnestly that it is hard to be overly critical. The film’s indulgence in its sincerity never comes at the expense of its authenticity. In particular, a subplot revolving around Otto and a transgender teenager (Mack Bayda) is a great example of inclusivity and genuine kindness that feels sorely lacking in mainstream filmmaking.


Of course, with movies like this, there always must be moments of the older characters mumbling their annoyances about the younger generation. Otto does so in strides. From complaining about automatic cars, social media, and phones, the film plays to an older demographic. The crowd I saw it with, comprised of largely older retirees, found the humor to be utterly delightful. To them, Otto might as well have been Charlie Chaplin reincarnated.


A Man Called Otto achieves something so rare in Hollywood these days. It is a feel-good movie featuring a beloved Hollywood icon playing against type that plays to all ages and demographics. A Man Called Otto exists merely as an inconsequential, but delightful story about the power of friendship and family featuring a surprisingly touching message about kindness to all.


Author Bio:

Ben Friedman is a freelance film journalist and a contributing writer at Highbrow Magazine. For more of his reviews, visit, his podcast Ben and Bran See a Movie, or follow him on Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube: The Beniverse


For Highbrow Magazine


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