A Man Called Otto is an old school After School Special for adults. Handily Directed by Marc Foster of Quantum of Solace, Monster’s Ball and Finding Neverland fame, the film never feels like it’s breaking new ground, yet each vignette carries the story along. I found myself entertained from moment to moment and before I knew it, the ride of Otto was over. Interestingly, some of the imagery and situations that were depicted have stayed with me, even several days after watching the movie. There was a lot to process though at the time everything seemed innocent enough.
The inclusivity aspects of the story at times feel forced and stretch to the point the story enters, “suspend your disbelief” territory. And so we are simultaneously and ironically once again looking at the white savior narrative trope. Yet overall, the film works. It’s because the audience wants it to work. A lot of this has to do with Tom Hanks. In this film, thankfully, he doesn’t start out good, continue to be good and end good. Don’t remind me about Sully. The Otto character has a great narrative arc. When the classic curmudgeon says, “I’m not unfriendly”, it’s a laugh out loud moment in the theater. This film delivers several of those. And the supporting stories: the immigrant family, the insidious real estate speculators, the stricken and neglected neighbors, even an abandoned cat! They all work in shoring up the main narrative; how Otto got to be this way and what can be done about it.
The more I think about it, the more I really enjoyed this film. It sort of develops this fantastic world but there is a lot of truth in it and in what it’s ultimately trying to say. Your life isn’t over unless you think it is. And in life, empathy can take you much further than bitterness. I hope you all get to catch this one.