The Old Men and Me

Review of ‘A Man Called Otto’

Kacey Miller, Reporter

By the time I bought my ticket for the 3:10 p.m. showing of “A Man Called Otto” at the Cinemark on Saturday, the only seat left was G11; the center seat in the top row. When I got to my seat about five minutes before showtime, I couldn’t help but notice that my entire row was full of elderly men who were joking about their wives and the weather. At this point, I started to wonder if I was the right age demographic that this movie was targeting, but then the opening scene lit up the room and I settled in for the two hour-long film by holding down that little button that leans your seat all the way back.

Based on the book by Fredrik Backman called “A Man Called Ove,” “A Man Called Otto” is directed by Marc Forster, who’s also directed the films “Christopher Robin” and “World War Z.” Tom Hanks stars as Otto Anderson in this feel-good film, which had a budget of $50 million, according to IMDB.

Already, the movie has beaten box office odds by generating a total of $36 million in ticket sales as of Jan. 16, per Box Office Mojo. Predictions for the movie’s success rate raised a low bar, as the target audience’s age range is adults and older, and it’s been proven that the older population doesn’t go to the movies as much after a pandemic. The film has had a good turnout, though, and is already exceeding expectations.

Before I get into the bulk of the review, I need to put it out there that this movie needs a trigger warning. I’m surprised I never saw one when buying my ticket, watching trailers, or when looking at ads for it, but there are multiple cases of graphic suicide attempts that may be triggering for some people. Please take caution when deciding to watch this movie if you think you may have trouble with those scenes.

The movie starts out simple, playfully introducing Otto Anderson as an elderly man who is probably the most grumpy person in town. Not only is he unfriendly, but he is also extremely particular about everything, and his obsession with keeping things just-so is apparent in how he takes it upon himself each morning to take a lap around his small apartment duplex and check on all of the neighbors’ responsibilities, making sure they’ve completed them all to perfection. Otto is very unhappy, though, and does not even want to be alive anymore; he wants to join his late wife in Heaven, which he tells her when he goes to visit her grave every day. He’s just about to leave his life on Earth behind when a very pregnant woman, Marisol (Mariana Treviño) and her husband, Tommy (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo) with two little girls in the back seat, pull up to their new house, the one across the street from Otto’s, and begin (very loudly) trying to parallel park the U-Haul trailer attached to their SUV.

Otto, being the special man he is, quickly stops everything he’s doing to cross the street and make sure his new neighbors have their parking permit, one of the requirements of living in the duplex. Once he’s sure he can’t chastise them for that, he switches over to judging the terrible parking job being done by Tommy. At one point Otto asks what Tommy’s trying to do and when Tommy says he’s parallel parking, Otto responds “parallel to what??” That got the whole theater laughing, especially the elderly men in my row.

This scene sets up the rest of the plot, which is mostly the budding relationship between Otto and Marisol. The dynamic the two characters have is something both hilarious and sentimental, and it’s heartwarming to see them grow closer throughout the movie, where the storyline is periodically interrupted by flashbacks of how Otto met his late wife, named Sonya, and how they built the life they had together. I think the flashbacks are meant to justify Otto’s depression, which we see a lot of, and I think they accomplish that well enough, as we get to know more about how life’s been for him without Sonya.

There are plenty of sub-plots scattered along the timeline of Otto and Marisol’s friendship, but I won’t get into them because it would be spoiling too much.

For my personal review, I really really really want to love this movie. And after walking out of the theater, I was pretty positive it was going to be my new favorite movie. But after going back through the scenes in my head, and writing this review, I think the ending was just so powerful and heart-wrenching that it clouded over the first hour and a half of the film.

One major con of this movie is that it’s very depressing, and doesn’t lighten up until the very end. It was not fun to have to sit through those graphic scenes of attempted suicide, and they also slowed the plot down a lot. One or two of the flashback scenes were a little out of place and confusing, and the whole movie felt long and stretched out. During a few parts of the film, I was bored, and others restless. Even the elderly men sitting on either side of me got a little chatty in some scenes, and their conversation was more interesting than the glumness of the screen in front of us.

On the pro side, the acting is amazing, and the characters are extremely well developed. I felt loved by Marisol, and learned to care for Otto. In most movies I see, I can’t remember all the characters’ names very well, especially the side characters, but in this one, when I would see one of the neighbors pop into a scene, I could instantly recall their name. Even though Otto was closed off and mean, the movie itself was welcoming and kind. It warmed my heart to see the way Otto and Marisol’s relationship progressed. Also, it’s super funny. The script was very well written, with a good balance of light, genuine humor and sentimentality.

The biggest strength of this movie is by far the ending. Whatever discomfort or sadness the depressing beginning brought me was nothing after the credits started rolling. It’s impossible to be disappointed with the ending this movie has, and for me it takes a slightly better than decent movie to something I’m going to recommend to everyone. Not to say the rest of the movie is bad, but rather, all comes together in the end.

From the beginning of the film to the end, I laughed more times than I could count. It was funny, witty, and Hanks does a phenomenal job making the audience smile. It’s sort of a scheme, though, all the light-hearted parts, because they make the sad scenes all the more devastating. I cried in several places throughout the movie, but by the end I was certifiably bawling. Like, not just tears rolling down my cheeks. I was red-faced, puffy-eyed, and probably looked like I’d been broken up with coming out of that theater. But it was a good cry, one that made me feel all sorts of deep, touching emotions I hadn’t felt in a while. And when I stepped out into the movie theater corridor, and my eyes adjusted to the dim yellow lights, I looked behind me to see the elderly group of friends all had tears in their eyes too, which just made me cry even more.


My rating: 3.9 out of 5 old men in my row.