Tom Hanks gives a stellar performance in ‘A Man Called Otto’

Synopsis: Otto is a grump who’s given up on life following the loss of his wife and wants to end it all. When a young family moves in nearby, he meets his match in quick in quick-witted Morison, leading to a friendship that will turn his world around.
Director: Marc Forster
Stars: Tom Hanks, Mariana Trevino, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo

When I first saw the trailer for this movie, I instantly thought of Larry David. How could you not? Tom Hanks plays a curmudgeon. His character seems to be someone who just barks at people. Someone who seems set in their ways. I like Curb Your Enthusiasm, so I was set for this adventure.

Otto Anderson (Hanks) is regimented. His eccentricities are well known by his neighbours. He likes things recycled properly, he likes owners that pick up after their dogs, and he really likes drivers to obey the street signs. Otto doesn’t understand why people need rear-view cameras on their cars or automatic transmission. He is very simple and spends most of his time grunting at a world he feels is stupid.

For his part, Hanks plays the part very well. With an actor with Hanks' pedigree, there is always the concern of mail-in performances, but that is not the case here.

Across the street, a family of four is moving in; Marisol (Mariana Trevino), Tommy (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), and their two daughters. Otto now must contend with new neighbours. He would probably like Tommy more if he knew the difference between an Allen and an Alvin wrench. Otto immediately dismisses the new family and, per usual, wants nothing to do with them; he prefers being on his own, but not on Marisol’s watch. Her openly friendly personality won’t allow Otto to shoo away her desires for kindness and friendship.

Marisol is the ying to Otto's yang. She is friendly and comes over with food to warm his tummy and, hopefully, his personality.

We learn that part of Otto’s abrasiveness is he is reeling from the loss of his wife. With the help of flashbacks, we get a glimpse into the Otto of the past and are taken on a journey of the courtship with him and his wife.

Some effective casting puts one of Hanks' children, Truman, into the role of young Otto. Tom Hanks has had to defend the casting of his son, and I’m somewhat perplexed as to why? This isn’t the first time we have seen this, and probably not the last. Truman Hanks’ performance in the film didn’t take away from the picture.

I never saw the original film this is based on, so I have nothing to compare it to. I will commend this film on not giving anything away in the trailer. Regardless of whether you’ve seen the source material, what you get here is a very moving film. I wasn’t expecting the range of emotions explored in this film.

Marc Forster has directed a good film here. He has directed big action flicks like World War Z and Quantum of Solace, but he has also directed films like Monsters Ball, which saw Halle Berry win an Oscar, and an adaptation of the best-seller, The Kite Runner.

This is a very sweet film and has piqued my interest in seeing the original. From the trailer, the expectation of this film was seeing a movie reminiscent of a ‘Larry David’ type character, but we get so much more here.

A Man Called Otto is an entertaining film that is very dark at points but touching and sweet.

Grade: B

Watch the movie trailer: