A MAN CALLED OTTO
Released January 13th
A Man Called Otto is based on the Swedish film, A Man Ove, winner of two Academy Awards in 2015. I saw that film, which was a touching story. I would counter some critics who have described Tom Hanks’ character in the 2022 film as too angry, with the argument that it is deeply ingrained in Swedish culture to look honestly at the roots of depression and gloom with which we humans struggle. Those critics don’t understand the style or the emotional language. If you want an example, watch some films of the legendary Swedish director Ingmar Bergman.
In A Man Called Otto, director Marc Forster and writer David Magee have created an uplifting story about the classic “grumpy old man” who transitions from loss to love through friendship, community and communication. From first appearing as an extremely embittered soul, Otto’s changing personality is revealed in hints a drop at a time throughout the narrative. Tom Hanks does a masterful job at showing the nuances in Otto’s transformation.
Forster has directed an eclectic variety of films, including Monsters Ball, Finding Neverland (written by Magee,) Christopher Robin and the hugely popular Bond film Quantum of Solace. Aside from the years of expertise that Hanks and Forster bring to the table, this movie is really carried by its perfectly selected ensemble cast.
Casting directors Francine Maisler and Molly Rose assembled an extraordinary group of actors to play Otto’s colorful and quirky neighbors. They auditioned up and coming actors rather than negotiating pay for names that would draw box office. Each character is memorable and identifiable, and they work together like a well-tuned orchestra of humanity to deliver star performances, including the cat!
Mariana Trevino as new neighbor “Marisol” is the sunshine of the film, and no matter how hard Otto tries to cover her rays with clouds, it’s not happening. The actress nails this role. If you did not grow up in a Mexican family, you may not recognize Trevino at all. Her skilled performance is the product of many years of focus, training, and work in Mexican theatre, film and TV. She grew up in Monterey, Mexico, and always knew she wanted to be on stage. She studied contemporary dance at the National institute of Fine Arts, and Acting at the Neighborhood Playhouse in New York, and at the Berklee School of Music in Boston, and English Language and Literature. She worked as an actor in Spain and South Africa. Trevino logged over 1000 performances in the musical “Mentiras” in Mexico and starred in two Mexican Netflix series. Of her acting career, she notes, “Now it comes naturally because there is a lot of work behind it.” To her audience, it will look so easy.
Trevino was alone in a hotel in Spain during the pandemic when she received the invitation to audition for this film. She felt isolated and depressed but persevered. Since she had no one to read the scenes with her, she set up her phone on “record” and played all the multiple roles in the scenes herself. Forster was blown away. Another actor in the ensemble also delivers an impressive performance, trans actor Mack Bayda as “Malcolm.”
The inspiration of this heartwarming film is best summarized by Trevino. Otto is at first enraged that a raucous Latin American family has moved in across the street. About her vibrant, indomitable character’s relationship with Otto, she says, “It’s beautiful to honor and to understand that we’ve enriched each other…the movie is about family and about finding family if you don’t have one.” Watching A Man Called Otto, you won’t even notice that prejudice is being addressed because it’s done in graceful and understated way. This movie will embed itself in your memory.
Kathryn Whitney Boole has spent most of her life in the entertainment industry, which has been the backdrop for remarkable adventures with extraordinary people. She is a Talent Manager with Studio Talent Group in Santa Monica. firstname.lastname@example.org