A Man Called Otto

Where I Watched It: Netflix

English Audio Description?: Yes

Narrated By: Andrea Breton

You’re a mean one, Mr. Grinch.

While I am unfamiliar with both the original film and book on which this English language adaptation is based, I suspect there are many like me. I definitely think we should do a better job of helping American audiences enjoy International cinema, instead of just remaking it. but, without remakes, we’d never have gotten The Departed or Coda. Not that A Man Called Otto is necessarily on that level, but with Tom Hanks being in three films in 2022, this is the best performance of his, and best film.

Otto is a curmudgeon in the most obvious terms. A grumpy old man who is set in a routine, yet is destined for this film to open him up to everyone around him. We learn almost at the start of the film that Otto is a widower, and he has every intention on committing suicide very soon, so of course this is a real uplifting crowd pleaser.

But, despite those in the neighborhood he already knows being easily already written off, a new family moves in, and their relentless pursuit of friendship and camaraderie whether Otto is interested or not. Even though Otto is leaving the earth soon, he still is bothered when things aren’t done right, or when something needs to be fixed.

Otto also spends a great deal of time rallying against a real estate development company that is buying up the land around his enclave, even so much as to try and go after one of his elderly neighbors homes. This is all represented by a rather over the top and cartoonish villain who likes big loud vehicles, and even louder music.

As Otto slowly is seemingly forced into befriending his new neighbors, he starts to learn more about the rest of the ‘hood as well, and we learn more about him and the wife that cut through his particular demeanor. All of this turns a weird suicide centric film into a film about how the Grinch’s heart grew three times that day, except for Otto… that might be a problem.

Tom Hanks, as usual, is the reason to watch this. However, basically all the performances around him are solid. From a feisty new neighbor, to getting to know the trans paper boy who remembers Otto’s wife fondly, there is a nice collection of folks right outside his window.

The only unfortunate thing about this is that I didn’t quite grasp the layout of this area. I found it a little hard to try and picture how these homes were laid out, and how these new homes encroaching on their space really felt. So, in a weird way, this was a little like Dogville in my mind, with chalk outlines of where buildings should be, but in some odd shaped formation that resembled a potential cul de sec.

Otherwise, the audio description does a fine job of capturing some of the non verbal characters, like a heavily featured cat, and a neighbor left unable to speak after a stroke. In the smallest of moments, the most intimate actions matter. The glance, the cock of a head, whatever small tool these non-verbal features have at their disposal are so important to translate and that’s where the audio description succeeds.

From Marc Forester, the director of Finding Neverland, A Man Called Otto is one of those oddly charming films that sneaks up on you. It’s certainly predictable, in so much that you expect character development, but what you don’t expect is to be so incredibly invested in Otto by the end of the film. And that has a lot to do with Tom hanks, who is effortless in nearly everything he’s ever done.

Final Grade: A-

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