As both a dramedy and an attempted crowd-pleaser, A Man Called Otto is yet another familiar and unremarkable tale but one that strives to be genial and earnest in equal measure and achieves it.
If there’s anything I took away from Marc Forster’s directing, it’s the curiously eccentric manner he flows through each scene with winsome ease. As weirdly stylized and processed his films can come off as, and this American adaptation of "A Man Called Ove" does suffer from that, autopilot is not an option for him. You can tell this is someone who opts to try and put his best foot forward or not at all and as basic as it is, it’s that same precarious admirability that buoyed the Christoper Robin movie and Quantum of Solace. His direction still feels like momentary progression and less like a distraction.
Balance is a crucial factor to keep in mind for movies like this and between a sentimental tragedy and a dark comedy, the tone here fluctuates to where settling on a mood was tricky. It barely combines them together to create something consistent and only just.
All of the editing is basic and the cinematography falls into the same category; simple but effective. I wish I had something to say about the production design but it’s limitations work in favor of the story as opposed to against it since what we see works more appropriately on a smaller scale. Ditto for the musical score that merely avoids feeling phoned-in and all of the supporting cast members are decent in their deliveries even if their characters might as well be placeholders but Tom Hanks and Mariana Trevino are golden together.
We have yet another storyline that follows a modern-day Scrooge-like figure slowly getting a new lease on life, finding happiness again before his time is up and making new friends along the way. There’s nothing inherently offensive or off-putting about this plotline; it has some positive diverse representation and a nice collective ring to what being part of a community really means and stands for. It’s heart is in the right place as it’s themes tackle love, loss, compassion, finding family in unexpected places and how important it can be to keep fighting for your life because it has more to offer you than you think.
Traditional story and recognizable resolution aside, there’s, again, an admirable edge to this story’s presentation even when it doesn’t really call for it. Whenever it builds something important for later, it not only rewards its audience for bothering to stick around but Forster’s use of slow discourse merely disguises how on-the-nose the script actually is, making the most out of this underdog scenario.
Although, similar to The Intouchables compared The Upside, it doesn’t have the same emotional punch as it’s foreign counterpart, the final act can be telegraphed from mere miles away and despite some illusionary dark imagery, the film is never as dark as it portends to be.
But uneven execution aside, this isn’t a bad way to spend 90 minutes of your time. And I came close to crying……somehow; again, I don’t cry easily.