A Man Called Otto Review (“Goodbye, cruel world"indeed.)
So, tell me if you haven't seen this before, a recent retiree who is a Widower, is bitter, resentful and has OCP, yet has a change of "heart" when his new neighbors move in.
In case you haven’t, 2022's Dramedy "A Man Called Otto" starring Tom Hanks serves as a refresher for those who forgot about the various tropes seen from plenty of drama-based films. Clint Eastwood's Gran Torino is but one example.
Based on a 2012 Swedish novel, and a 2014 film, this adaptation follows Tom Hanks as the titular curmudgeon, who is retired with no consent of his own, and while picking fights with fellow tenants around his suburban complex be it leaving a bike near his garage, or not putting recyclable trash in the correct bin, Otto not for lack of trying, fails to commit suicide for one reason or another, be it faulty ceilings, or sudden interruptions as in the case of new neighbors: Marisol, Tommy, and their two daughters, having difficulty parking a U-Haul, Otto begrudgingly helps while belittling Marisol and her husband.
To express their gratitude, Marisol brings Otto a home-cooked Mexican dish, to which he eventually reciprocates. So, throughout the film, the story is constantly bombarded with flashbacks from Otto's past which further down unravels the justification of why the 64-year-old Widower is at first reluctant to take in new friends and even a stray cat. Of course, near the end of our tale, "SPOILERS" Otto the grinch, becomes a big part of this newfound family.
Despite the message that this film is trying to convey, there are too many plot threads shoehorned into this adaptation. You have some shady development company Dye and Merika, trying to get homeowners to sell off their property while planning to gentrify the neighborhood, Otto's neighbors who come with their own backstory such as Malcolm the Transgender teen who father kicks him out for obvious reasons, immigrant Marisol who is pregnant with her third child, who Otto discovers that she's not the idiot he once called her, or his friendship with now disabled Reuben that has been long severed due to car preferences.
Then there's a Social Media influencer who records him doing a heroic deed, who later assists Otto into sticking it to Dye & Merika. All that may sound like good news near the film's climax however, "A Man Called Otto " underneath its sporadic humor, is a dour and sobering mess. From what I read; the novel is loosely based on true events yet begs to ask the question, how much bad luck can a person have in a lifetime?!?
Prior to the events leading to his wife Sonya’s passing, she loses a child, her mobility when being paralyzed, and "eventually " succumbs to that all too familiar tear inducing plot device, cancer!
On top of that, Otto was born with a heart ailment which prevented him from enlisting in the United States Army diminishing his dreams of becoming an Engineer. His estranged friends Rueben and Anita are suffering from complications of stroke and Parkinson's disease respectively. And while Otto has a change of heart, his heart gives out as told through a predictable scene. But hey, at least the cat stayed with him till the bitter end. So, there's that!
Aside from the performances from Hanks, and breakout role courtesy of actress Mariana Treviño, "Otto" is more of a Heartbreaker, than heartwarming.
Yes, suicide is unfortunate and so is going through life after experiencing periods of loss. I'm aware that everyone's coping mechanism varies, but goddamn!
Love may win out in the end, but this tale if anything, may serve as a "be thankful that you don't have it as bad as an elderly man who lost everything, yet found a purpose to live, at least for a couple of years before his end." A Man Called Otto, is now available on Netflix.
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