This is a shamelessly melodramatic rendition of A Man Called Ove, a novel published in 2012. This is also the novel’s second cinematic adaptation, as the novel was first adapted into a Swedish film in 2015. Otto Anderson, played by Tom Hanks, is introduced as a surly, gruff, and anti-social recently widowed old man. As the story progresses, we learn more about his background and the guy he used to be before becoming the miserable and suicidal person in the present day.
The settings and characters in A Man Called Otto feel plots driven in order to paint Otto in a sympathetic light and someone who can still show kindness and empathy to his neighbours. The demography of his friends are also very inclusive. We have the black couple who lived in the neighbor of years, the new neighbours with a Mexican wife, and a trans young man who had a connection to Otto. Otto’s background is revealed through misty lensed flashback sequences that shows a young Otto falling in love and starting life with his wife. It’s all very sugary sweet and fairy tale-like.
Surprisingly, despite the film’s clear shameless aim to gaining our compassion, it actually works!! I fell for all of the film’s trappings in terms of tugging at our emotions, thanks to some genuine performances from its cast and the clever employment of shifts in mood from melodramatic to humourous. Otto’s numerous unsuccessful suicide attempts are a running gag that we can see coming miles away yet nonetheless find amusing. The overly loving and forgiving character of his neighbours (both new and old) who are somehow unaffected by Otto’s rudeness and snark. The bad guys are portrayed as “evil” housing developement executives who aim to buy out the entire area in order to establish a large condominium complex. It’s all very fairytale-like, but the film’s unwavering commitment to promoting positive ideals like good neighborliness, care for others, and extending a helpful hand is always appreciated. It also touches on the very real existence of suicidal thoughts in people and how support can be beneficial. Otto the movie, works and is extremely watchable in my books because of its earnestness in bringing these concerns to a world that is increasingly becoming indifferent.