Monday 13 March 2023

REVIEW: A Man Called Otto (2023) - Starring Tom Hanks, Mariana Treviño and Rachel Keller

Review by Jon Donnis
Everyone's favourite actor Tom Hanks is back starring in another heart-warming comedy drama, although you might find that you need the tissues to get through this one as it is designed to really pull on those heart strings.

In a quiet suburb of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, resides Otto Anderson (Tom Hanks), a 63-year-old man who has recently lost his wife, Sonya (Rachel Keller), a schoolteacher. Having retired from a steel company, Otto finds himself struggling to cope with the loss of his beloved wife and decides to end his own life through suicide. Yes folks, suicide is a recurring theme throughout the film.

During his first attempt to hang himself, Otto is interrupted by his new neighbors - Marisol (Mariana Treviño), Tommy (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), and their two young daughters, Abby and Luna. As he struggles to come to terms with his decision, Otto is overwhelmed with flashbacks of his past, including his failed attempt to join the army due to his hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and the fateful train ride where he first met Sonya.

Undeterred by his failed suicide attempt, Otto tries again, this time opting for carbon monoxide poisoning. As he slips into unconsciousness, he recalls a poignant memory of a dinner with Sonya where he confesses his heart condition and joblessness, leading to an intimate moment between the couple. However, once again, his suicide attempt is foiled by Marisol's urgent plea for help, as her husband Tommy has fallen off a ladder, which Otto had lent him, and broken his leg.

Reluctantly, Otto agrees to help and drives the family to the hospital. Despite his initial hesitations, Otto finds himself drawn to the warmth and kindness of his new neighbors and begins to see a glimmer of hope in his life, realizing that he is not alone in his struggles.

The film does have some funny and lighthearted moments, which is often tough to do when the subject matter is so serious, ultimately this is a film about grief, loneliness and ultimately friendship.

At just over 2 hours it is a little long, and some scenes could easily have been cut without affecting the film, but with that said I thought they did a good job, in pacing the film, and although the ending is a little predictable, it is done in a nice way.

As the film progresses we do get quite a few flashbacks of Otto's life with his late wife, how they met, her accident, and ultimately her death, which helps to explain everything you are seeing with the Otto character.

There is part of me that would have liked to have seen this film played a bit more for laughs, and the journey of grumpy old man to loveable friend of the street being a bit less wrenching on the emotions of the viewer, but I guess we already have that with Ricky Gervais After Life series, which does follow a similar story. (Ricky has a dog, Hanks has a cat)

As it is this film treads a difficult path, I thought that the attempted suicide scenes were well filmed, but could be triggering for some. I also thought the introduction of a transgender character seemed a bit forced, and came across like a box ticking exercise, you could have told the exact same story with the Malcolm character (played by Mack Bayda), without using the trans labelling. With that said I had no issue with the character, and that mini story was told well, even if it didn't really fit in with the overall Otto storyline.

The Good
A well written story, performed well by all involved, Mariana Treviño really shone bright in this film, as the instantly likeable Marisol. Hanks does what Hanks does best. And although a sad film which will bring the tears, it is done in a nice enough way.

The Bad
Felt a little long, and dragged in a few places. I would have liked to have seen a few more laughs, and a little less sadness.

An enjoyable film, perhaps not one to watch with kids due to its content, and not one to watch if you are feeling depressed or need cheering up.

Out now in Cinemas, and coming soon to Amazon Prime at