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A Man Called Otto–A Warm Kiss for the Soul

In this Netflix movie we see a retelling of the bestselling Frederick Backman novel, A Man Called Ove,  set in Pittsburgh instead of Sweden and with cultural shifts in narrative.

Themes of aging,  loneliness and depression from  the loss of one’s soulmate,  isolation and feelings of irrelevance from forced retirement all play front and center in A Man Called Otto

Otto (Tom Hanks, our American treasure,) is a sixty-something curmudgeonly resident in a condo complex, well-known for his irascibility in the neighborhood.  Slowly, Otto’s backstory unfolds, revealing a hard-shelled tortoise with a soft, vulnerable underbelly.  

Quietly heroic in spite of his hardened exterior, Otto has given up: without the light of his life, Sonya, a high school teacher beloved by all of her students.  After her death, Otto is engulfed by a boneyard of memories of how his beautiful Sonya changed his world, as if she had cast a magic spell on him.

When a new family moves next door, Otto is threatened by the change they represent.  Marisol, a Mexican immigrant (played touchingly by Mariana Trevino), and her clueless husband Tommy, introduce themselves and their two little daughters, bringing a Mexican home-cooked chicken dish. But  Otto is not charmed…yet.

“No, no, no, no. You’re not unfriendly.  Every word you say is like a warm cuddle.  It really is.”–Marisol counters Otto’s unresponsiveness to her generous attempts at friendship.

‘You think your life is so hard because everybody’s an idiot and you have to do everything on your own. But guess what?  You can’t. No one can.”  But Otto is not convinced.

In this feel-good comedy-drama,  Otto’s character arc is not surprising, particularly with Hanks in the title role.  But an underwritten role in Marisol is.   Giving Marisol depth and whimsical strength, Trevino matches Hanks in every scene, often stealing one’s emotions in the process of watching her remarkable performance.  A popular young Mexican actress in her first American role, let’s hope that she has more opportunities in US cinema.

Availability:  Netflix streaming


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