‘A Man Called Otto’ crafts amazing characters, suffers from predictable plot

TW: “A Man Called Otto” contains attempted suicide.

“A Man Called Otto,” directed by Marc Forster and based on the novel “A Man Called Ove” written by Fredrik Backman, follows old, grumpy widower Otto Anderson (Tom Hanks) when a new family moves into his neighborhood. Otto befriends the mother, Marisol (Mariana Treviño), who helps him learn to appreciate the beauty of life.

Hanks steals the show as the titular protagonist Otto Anderson. Despite his presence in modern culture of being the dad of Hollywood, Hanks delivers an excellent and believable performance as an incredibly rude and unlikable old person. As Otto’s story unfolds, viewers will begin to feel some sympathy for the man, or at the very least understand his pessimistic attitude. However, the writing of the character lacked nuance. It often felt blunt and lazy to get audiences to sympathize with Otto, rather than letting Hanks’ acting chops show character growth.

Hanks’ performance in “A Man Called Otto” is especially interesting when compared to his role as Col. Tom Parker in 2022’s “Elvis.” In both roles, Hanks took on the archetype of a mean old man. In “Elvis,” he remained evil throughout, but in “A Man Called Otto” he succeeded in making the character of Otto unlikable at the beginning, only to create a steady growth in his character that leaves audiences adoring him by the close of the picture.

The main problem with the writing of “A Man Called Otto” lies in its predictability. The moments in which the movie attempts to pull at viewers’ heartstrings only ever stem from tragedy, whether it be in a character’s tragic past or some present occurrence. That’s not to say the plot itself lacks substance, but it quickly grows tiresome when audiences can predict what’ll happen next before the movie even does it. For example, after a repeated scene of Otto bumping into a stray neighborhood cat, it feels predictable that, at some point, Otto will become the cat’s owner despite his anger and hatred toward people and animals. These cliches make for a boring watch of an otherwise powerful message.

Despite some issues with writing, the characters of “A Man Called Otto” make for an enjoyable watch thanks to the actors. Each actor dives into the character they portray and makes it very easy for audiences to relate with them. Each character also displays a fantastic arc, with each plotline ending in a satisfying way. Some people may call the character archetypes stereotypical, such as social media influencer or comical goofball, but ultimately these personalities add to the overall message: Despite different stories and backgrounds, everyone is connected by a shared humanity.

A decent enough movie, “A Man Called Otto” features some great performances with a predictable story. While the runtime feels a bit longer than expected due to a mediocre plot, audiences won’t feel robbed of their time thanks to everyone involved in crafting this heartwarming and heart-destroying story.

3 stray cats out of 5