Tom Hanks for me is a part of a list of actors who aren't attached to mediocre, subpar or horrible cinematic projects. Other examples include Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman, Joaquin Phoenix, Denzel Washington, Keanu Reeves and Robin Williams. For as long as I can remember, there hasn't been a cinematic product with those actors that I haven't enjoyed.
"A Man Called Otto" is a 2023 comedy/drama story starring Hanks as a cantankerous, isolated and grieving senior citizen living through a mundane existence of going through the motions of life after the passing of his wife. Viewers find themselves on a journey with Otto as he navigates through sentimental chapters of his past, present and potential future. Experiencing the metamorphosis of this specific character filled me with memories of my own father. I couldn't help but notice the striking traits both shared with their natural abilities of exhibiting outspoken blunt thoughts, hard-working mentality, a clear indication of refusing to allow themselves to showcase vulnerability and dedication to their principles of morality.
As the story progresses, Otto's life finds various inconveniences arriving in the form of new tenants renting condos, thus ruining specific tasks that must be completed for him to consider his day to have been productive. It's a new tenant in the form of a mother, husband and their kids who through sheer consistency and persistence ultimately find their way into the gruff, guarded interior of Otto. Under his rugged mindset is a man who is lonely, loyal and kindhearted.
The most articulate way that "A Man Called Otto" can be described is it's a unique combination of 1994's classic "Forrest Gump" and 2008's "Gran Torino." Otto's tale indicates a clear inclination of a bright and hopeful element that's reminiscent of "Forrest Gump." On the other hand, the "'Gran Torino" comparison comes into play with how similar Otto's life is to the character of Walt Kowalski. The major difference between the two is "A Man Called Otto" doesn't share the same violence, profanity or harshness that "Gran Torino" exhibits.
Performance wise, I believe it's fair to say that all can agree Hanks has never had a subpar, mediocre or even a horrible performance. Throughout his career, he's always given 100% to any story he's involved in. It's no different this time with him effortlessly portraying a gruff, bitter senior citizen as he slowly begins to reveal his sentimental, emotional nature that he desperately wants to keep hidden. The chemistry of interactions and cleverly written dialogue he shares with actress Marina Trevino is magnetically charming and humorous. From opposite ends of the spectrum, both characters want to figure each other out as they're walking on eggshells in hopes of not offending nor causing any irreparable harm in the process.
There are other characters serving as minor additions to the overall plot itself. However, from a creative and performance standpoint, each element of the story belongs to Hanks utilizing his talents of guiding this emotional vehicle. What's clever and interesting about this film is how despite the two-hour length, it flows comfortably, never allowing itself to become boring. Quick-witted and intelligent dialogue keeps it entertaining in a way which engages the audience. My only complaint is that there's a couple of scenes that could've been removed for more development of the growing relationship between Otto and Marisol's family. The rapid pace of dialogue interactions added to the comedic and entertaining element, and ultimately the dynamic between the two could've been its own film without any other characters being included. That's how much I enjoyed their chemistry.
Genuine emotion is implemented here, as it never forces the moment upon the audience. After the feature, there were a lot of heavy sentimental factors that I began experiencing. Without going into details, "A Man Called Otto" is one film that, for emotional and personal reasons, I won't view again as the ending resonated with me in a manner that was significantly painful and brought some sad memories of my father. Some of my favorite moments, other than the beautiful flashback sequences, were Otto's interactions with a stray cat he becomes attached to. Those scenes are literal recreations of how my father found himself falling in love with our family cat, Shadow.
It's not to say this is a negative review - quite the opposite. Director Marc Forster brought to life an important journey of realistic emotions, humor and powerful acting that moves the heart and soul without going into the mode of intentionally beating the audience over the head with the presentation. He created a required viewing that I do highly recommend for all. There's nothing that's disturbing for children other than a few scenes that focus on harsh topics regarding mental health and grief. Other than that, there's no level of intense violence, profanity, sexual innuendos or harmful imagery that will cause parents to hesitate to bring their children or other family members.
My final rating of "A Man Called Otto" is a resounding 9/10 and two thumbs up reaction. I found it heartwarming, emotional, funny, entertaining and honest with its perspective. Highly recommended as 2023 has begun with two quality cinematic outings. My next review will feature the action thriller "Plane" starring Gerard Butler and Mike Coulter.
Isaiah Ridley works at Beacon Cinemas in Sumter. To watch his movie reviews online, find him @Izzy's Cinematic Escape on YouTube.
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