Sometimes, those of us who hold the biggest grudges can have the largest of hearts. So is the case with our protagonist Otto Anderson in the 2023 film A Man Called Otto. The film was adapted from the novel En Man Som Heter Ove, known in the U.S. as A Man Called Ove, written by Swedish author Fredrik Bachman. The original novel was also adapted into a Swedish film back in 2015. While I cannot speak to the content and writing style of the book, I can say that Bachman’s Folk Med Ångest, known in the states as Anxious People, is proof he knows what he is doing. This is the only novel of his that I have read, but I plan on picking up a few others later in the year. In Anxious People, a group of buyers is kept hostage in an apartment. As the story unravels, we learn that not every person involved is as evil as they appear. Otto is further proof of Bachman’s ability to tell stories with immense heart while situations surrounding the characters are tense. The extra ordinary becomes extraordinary with each little detail revealed. These stories of connection are universal.
Otto lives in a very small gated community. Every morning he makes his rounds, inspecting every last detail to ensure that his neighbors are doing their part. While there are good intentions, his attitude toward the world shines through, causing people to view him as a disgruntled older man. We are first introduced to Otto as he is planning to die. The world has nothing more to give, and he is surrounded by idiots.
When a new family moves in across the street, his plans are interrupted, and his walls are forced to come down. The audience begins to understand that his walls were placed purposefully to keep the perfect world he was trying to preserve intact. With a recent tragedy constantly on his mind, he saw it as a way to keep the lost love around for just a little while longer. His new neighbors, and their children, slowly begin to pull him back to the person he truly is underneath the layers of disdain and outward hatred. It is both a heartwrenching and heartwarming tale of learning to live without those you have loved.
Now I was very wary going into the theater. Tom Hanks’ last two performances were not his best, to say the least. Geppetto, in one of last year’s 3 Pinnochio adaptations, was not a great fit for the acclaimed actor. His role in Elvis was almost as scary as Pennywise the Clown. Utterly terrifying. As Otto, Hanks reminds us that he is at his best when playing characters rooted in humanity, even if he isn’t the nicest to everyone he meets.
I really loved this film. I laughed, I cried (a lot), and I learned that everyone is still worthy of redemption. It is such a powerful film that everyone will enjoy. Yes, it is sad, but I think that it is okay to want to see a film you know may hurt you. If we constantly are watching feel-good rom-com-type movies, then how can we understand someone else’s point of view beyond that of romance? No hate towards the romance genre, but if we truly aren’t able to push ourselves out of our comfort zone with movies, how can we do so in reality? Just something to chew on. Now, have a wonderful rest of your day, and love your neighbor!