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Photo: ‘A Man Called Otto’
Now, having expanded to theaters around the nation after an exclusive release in four theaters in Los Angeles and New York on December 30, 2022, ‘A Man Called Otto’ is available for Tom Hanks fans around the country. In his second film of 2022 (following ‘Elvis’ with Austin Butler), Tom Hanks leads the title role in ‘A Man Called Otto,’ a film adapted from the ‘New York Times’-bestselling Swedish novel titled ‘A Man Called Ove’ by Fredrick Backman. Although published in English in 2013, the novel did not pick up in popularity until 18 months after its English publication, then stayed on the ‘New York Times’ bestseller list for over ten months.
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‘A Man Called Otto’
Hanks’s character, Otto, is a grouchy neighbor who neither seeks nor finds happiness in daily life. With the passing of his wife and unborn child, Otto sees little to no reason to live, and with his failed attempts at taking his life, Otto decides to personify his disdain for life and share that sourness with the world. One day, with the arrival of a charmingly optimistic family next door, Otto starts to get some reminders as to what there is to enjoy about life outside of his late wife. The film explores many dark themes such as suicide and grief, but the cast brings a pleasant lightness to the film, making the film seem to be representative of the plot itself, which is to pull someone from that dark place through sharing joy and helping someone find the light in the darkness. The film is a good lesson for someone to come over a loved one’s death. It has the potential to teach someone to overcome the lost feelings they have after losing the other half of their codependent relationship. Not to say that Otto suffered from codependency, but the film unfolds how Otto learns to live without his other half.
Mariana Treviño Drives the Film
A spectacular supporting cast joins Tom Hanks on the screen for the film and ignites the film’s fire. With Hanks’s character so lacking of zest, the supporting cast being that spark is necessary for a film centered around a hopeless suicidal grouch. That spark is carried within the new family of the film, consisting of Marisol, Tommy, and their two daughters. Tommy, played by Manuel Garcia-Ruflo from ‘Murder on the Orient Express,’ is the initiator of the family’s introduction to Otto. Having just backed the U-Haul into Otto’s mailbox, then proceeding to let his clumsiness cause more tension between them and Otto, it becomes the job of his wife to clean up his mess as typical marriages work. Marisol is played by Mariana Treviño, a Mexican actress who is famous for her roles in various Spanish-speaking series such as ‘Club de Cuervos’ and ‘House of Flowers.’ Marisol finds herself getting to know Otto quickly, contradicting his unapproachability. Here, viewers see Otto’s interest in life return and he realizes that there may still be something to live for.
Mariana Treviño is the primary driver of the film’s energy. Her character is a mother of two and is expecting one more and she juggles life and parenthood elegantly. For someone with a lot on her plate, Marisol’s gusto for life and socializing brings the tone to life and prevents it from falling into the deep dark hole of Otto’s inner thoughts and emotions. Mariana Treviño plays the character perfectly as not only does she play the gleeful mother well but it is evident that Treviño was enjoying herself in the role too. In a story that tugs on the heartstrings, Marisol is the beam of light that steals the scenes when she appears.
How the American Film Compares to the Novel and the Swedish Adaptation
The Swedish film adaptation, titled ‘A Man Called Ove,’ was critically successful and adored globally. Released in late 2015, it received many award show nominations, two of them being from the 89th Academy Awards that broadcasted in February of 2017. It was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film and Best Makeup and Hairstyling but lost to ‘The Salesman’ and David Ayer’s ‘Suicide Squad’ respectively. Of those nominations, the film won two awards at the 51st Guldbagge Awards for Best Makeup and Hair and the Cinema Audience Award. Additionally, the film won the European Comedy award at the European Film Awards. With how successful the film was critically, Sony Pictures acquired the distribution rights for the film for $60 million.
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As happens with most American adaptations of foreign films, the general public response to the American remake is an almost unanimous agreement on the Swedish version reigning superior. The American version seems to lack in the character depth that the Swedish version delivers. Although Mariana Treviño has gotten the attention of the movie’s viewers, there are mixed reviews on the performance of Tom Hanks. Tom Hanks, an experienced actor with decades of experience, did seem to not give it his all in playing Otto. As hard it would be to give effort into a character whose M.O. is to give in as little enthusiastic effort to living as possible, it could be exactly how Hanks meant to play the character, but at times it seemed a role with little effort as opposed to an effortless role for Hanks.
Overall, Tom Hanks does a good job once the film picks up. When Otto begins to open up, viewers get to see more of that comical side of Otto and Hanks, and the elitism of Hanks’s acting abilities is apparent. In comparison to Rolf Lassgård, his leading Swedish counterpart, there is a small possibility that Hanks could be nominated for Best Actor in the next nomination lineup. Unlikely, he will succeed like Lassgård, who took home a Guldbagge Award for Best Male Actor for his role as Ove, due to the more notable roles and performances of the season.
ACTORS: Tom Hanks, Rachel Keller, Mariana Treviño, Manuel Garcia-Ruflo
DIRECTOR: Marc Forster
PRODUCERS: Fredrik Wikström Nicastro, Rita Wilson, Tom Hanks, Gary Goetzman
WRITER: David Magee
By Nino Vongphachanh
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