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  • Writer's pictureRob Ervin

Alex Reviews "A Man Called Otto"

Tom Hanks could be the most likeable actor on the planet. With years of experience as “America’s Dad,” and while there is a level of that continuing in A Man Called Otto, this is NOT what should be expected. I know what you may be thinking here: the trailers make it look lighthearted and funny, but this may just be the darkest movie Hanks has ever done. There have been darker films he has on his resume, but this is his darkest role at times I felt I could not be settled within because of how haunting he is certain moments that are fully relatable.

Otto Anderson is the surliest and crankiest member of a small community in western Pennsylvania. He may not legally be a grumpy old man, but that is exactly what he is as the years have gone by after the passing of his beloved wife (Rachel Keller). This perception is on display for all who see or hear him, and his frustration towards others is matched only by his deep sadness in the time he spends alone until a young family moves in that leads to a friendship with Marisol (Mariana Treviño). They both start to learn from each other as they also grow together.

Outside of the performance by Tom Hanks, there is little to the picture that is drastically amazing. The script (based on a best-selling book) is a straightforward story that did not surprise me beyond the dark moments. However, it executes exactly as it needs to and made me emotional more often than possibly any movie I have ever seen carried by the flashback scenes with Otto and his wife. Keller absolutely pops off the screen and delivers on how much empathy is needed by the grieving the widower. Unfortunately, Hanks’ son, Truman, doesn’t quite have the skill his father and brother do to equal Keller’s performance, but his subdued delivery may be what makes her performance feel so dynamic.

Sometimes a film is a perfect example how important support roles (often unmemorable and forgotten) emphasize what is important, even if they seem unimportant. Fortunately, turns by Cameron Britton, Mack Bayda, Juanita Jennings, and Manuel Garcia-Rulfo actually stand out by taking characters that could otherwise be seen as “just being there” become crucial to the narrative character growth of the stars. This is also furthered by more present characters played by Christana Montoya and Alessandra Perez, who are the perfect counterpoints to Otto’s grouch in order to break down his walls of self-isolating behavior.

To his credit, director Marc Forster does a wonderful job framing the neighborhood and its residents perfectly to balance the quaintness of A Man Called Otto’s setting while making the story feel gripping and important. This is not always an easy task for someone who has done impressive work on a grander scale as he did with World War Z and Quantum of Solace. There is a genuine part of me that believes he had to be the director for A Man Called Otto to succeed given the connection he may feel for the European source material.

This may not make a ton of money or have a huge budget but it could lead the pack in 2023 for having the most heart. Make sure to bring all the tissues you own for both the joyous and sad moments. Fortunately, both feel like a therapeutic release that just feels good.

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