“The whole neighborhood is falling apart these days,” intones a fed-up Otto (Tom Hanks) to his wife’s gravestone. As a matter of fact, he plans to join her soon. Suicide is the antidote for his grief. So, as soon as he retires from his job and no longer has responsibilities, because he is indeed a compulsively responsible guy, Otto orchestrates his own hanging.
This could be a gruesomely bitter character study, but it is just the opposite. Otto is so ornery and rude with acerbic clever retorts and perfectly set-up attempts to commit suicide that the entire film becomes delightfully comedic.
“A Man Called Otto” is adapted from the 2012 Swedish novel “A Man Called Ove” by Fredrik Backman. When it was initially sent out to publishers, it was rejected because of the subject matter, a curmudgeon widower committed to killing himself after the death of his lovely wife. But when a publishing house finally accepted the book, it ended up on the NYT Best Selling list for 42 consecutive weeks.
By 2015, a Swedish comedy-drama was based on Backman’s book. It was even submitted to the 2016 Academy Awards as Sweden’s entry in the Best Foreign Language Film category. By 2017, the lovable story caught American attention and Tom Hanks was announced as the star and his wife, Rita Wilson, as one of the producers. By early 2022, Marc Forster joined up as the director and David Magee re-wrote the screenplay that closely followed the Swedish rendition.
With little time to spare, Forster needed a young guy to play Otto as a young man. He insisted on meeting Hanks’ youngest son despite the Hanks family insisting that Truman was a cinematographer and not interested in acting. Forster met Truman and a deal was made. Filming took place from February to May and by December “A Man Called Otto” was delivered to audiences.
The featured song, “Til You’re Home,” was written and sung by Rita Wilson, Hanks’ wife, and is in the early Oscar line-up for Best Song. Participating with her, in a gorgeous duet, is Sebastián Yatra. In an interview with People magazine, Wilson explains the song: “It’s a person choosing life after coming out of a very dark place. We all have dark periods where things aren’t going well. When you can be reminded that there’s a reason to live and people to live for, it’s such a beautiful feeling.”
And those words summarize “A Man Called Otto.” Not only does Tom Hanks carry this film home with an expected Oscar nomination for best actor, but Mariana Treviño, as his new fully pregnant Hispanic neighbor, is priceless. It’s her Latina social charm and cultural expectations that enhance the humor and message of acceptance and civility in this charming family film that take it over the top.
Director: Marc Forster
Writer: David Magee (screenplay) based on novel “A Man Called Ove” by Fredrik Backman and Swedish screenplay by Hannes Holm
Producers: Rita Wilson, Tom Hanks, Gary Goetzman and Fredrik Wikstrom Nicastro
Cast: Tom Hanks, Mariana Treviño, Rachel Keller and Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Mack Bayda, Juanita Jennings, Truman Hanks and Kaily Hyman.
Editing: Matt Chesse
Music: Thomas Newman with featured song written and sung by Rita Wilson with Sebastián Yatra
Release: Jan. 4, 2023
Official Website: https://www.amancalledotto.movie
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