What is A Man Called Otto about? Tom Hanks movie explained

Daisy Phillipson
Tom Hanks in A Man Called Otto

A Man Called Otto, the heartwarming dramedy movie starring Tom Hanks, is sitting on the Netflix top 10 movies chart – so, here’s what it’s about, who’s in the cast, and if it’s worth watching. 

We’ve all met that grumpy old man who lives down the road. Most people might try to avoid getting caught in the crosshairs, but the sad fact is there’s probably a reason behind the rage. A Man Called Otto lifts the veil on one such man, showing that even the coldest of hearts can be thawed with a little love and compassion. 

Helmed by Quantum of Solace director Marc Forster, this is far from the first time the story has been told. The touching tale started out as the 2012 novel A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman, before getting a Swedish big screen adaptation in 2015 by Behind Blue Skies filmmaker Hannes Holm.

While some might argue there was no need for an American reboot, the idea of Tom Hanks in the eponymous role was just too irresistible. And, ultimately, A Man Called Otto proved to be a hit when it dropped earlier this year. With the movie now being viewed by millions on Netflix, here’s everything you need to know. 

What is A Man Called Otto about?

A Man Called Otto centers on Otto Anderson, a grumpy, old retiree who is left angry at the world after losing his wife. But just as he’s thinking about putting an end to his misery, a loving family comes into his life and changes everything. 

Check out the trailer below:

As per the official synopsis from Sony Pictures: “A Man Called Otto tells the story of Otto Anderson, a grump who no longer sees purpose in his life following the loss of his wife. 

“Otto is ready to end it all, but his plans are interrupted when a lively young family moves in next door, and he meets his match in quick-witted Marisol. She challenges him to see life differently, leading to an unlikely friendship that turns his world around. 

“A heartwarming and funny story about love, loss, and life, A Man Called Otto shows that family can sometimes be found in the most unexpected places.”

Marc Forster opened up to Filmhounds about the decision to make the movie for American audiences, stating: “It’s like Hamlet. It can be set in any kind of culture across the board, and I felt like the story needs to be seen by more people. 

“I felt like the American version A Man Called Otto will give it access to a wider audience, which I think is so important because the movie is funny, it’s sad, it’s emotional, and it’s light, it’s dark, and ultimately it’s life affirming and a lovely family movie.”

A Man Called Otto cast: Who’s in it?

None other than Hollywood heavyweight Tom Hanks stars in the leading role as Otto Anderson. It’s a perfect choice, with the Saving Private Ryan and Forrest Gump star flexing his acting chops to bring the complexity and depth required for such a role. 

What’s more, the actor’s son Truman Hanks plays a younger version of his dad’s character, marking his movie debut. Alongside the father-son duo, the cast includes: 

  • Mariana Treviño as Marisol
  • Manuel Garcia-Rulfo as Tommy
  • Christiana Montoya as Luna
  • Alessandra Perez as Abbie
  • Rachel Keller as Sonya
  • Juanita Jennings as Anita
  • Peter Lawson Jones as Reuben
  • Cameron Britton as Jimmy
  • Mack Bayda as Malcolm
  • Kailey Hyman as Barb

During a post-screening Q&A for the movie, Hanks (Sr) spoke about what it was like working with his son, telling People: “Without a doubt, it’s special because, you know, I changed his diapers.”

That being said, the pair were professional about the job at hand. “You get past that right away because you gotta show up, and you gotta hit the marks, and you gotta do it on time, and you gotta be right there,” he added. 

Tom Hanks' Otto speaks with Marisol, who is played by Mariana Treviño
Tom Hanks’ Otto speaks with Marisol, who is played by Mariana Treviño

“I know what that takes, and he [Truman] does too. It’s a little different when it’s the whole shebang. He was cast for a very specific reason. We resemble each other, he’s not a stranger, and he knows what the pressure is, and he’s gotta do it.”

Adding to this, Truman explained: “Whenever I do my imitation of him, people are like, ‘That’s not what he sounds like.’ But I have to convey to you the way I hear him. Everyone else hears, ‘Houston we have a problem,’ I hear this grumpy old man who’s mad at the DVD player.”

Is A Man Called Otto worth watching?

There’s a slight divide between the critics and the audiences, which is not unusual for a movie – particularly one that’s already been done so well before. As it stands, A Man Called Otto’s critics score is 69% on Rotten Tomatoes, a contrast to the 97% audience rating. 

In Deadline’s review, the outlet described the American remake as “vital,” adding: “It ultimately is a story of human connection coming at a time of unprecedented divisiveness and heartlessness in an America that seems to have truly lost its way. This is somewhat a return to a bit of old-style Frank Capra spirit in a social media age, and a family film that serves a purpose to remind us of the good within us.” 

The Guardian, meanwhile, described A Man Called Otto as “formulaic but ​charming,” saying: “Tom Hanks’s cranky widower may tread well-worn ground​, but the neighborly kindness that saves him is life-affirming.”

On the other side of the fence, Variety wrote: “A Man Called Otto wants to lift our spirits, but the trouble with it is that the nicer Otto gets, the more naggingly fake the movie becomes.” And the Observer described it as “a follow-the-dots flick with a few moments of charm that aims to be a feel-good crowd pleaser, but lacks enough freshness and insight to make it anything special.”

Critics’ opinions aside, viewers loved the movie, with Twitter awash with high praise for the tear-jerking story. “Watched A Man Called Otto at a whim and what a beautiful journey it took me through,” wrote one, while another said: “A Man Called Otto was really a good movie.”

A third added: “Last night I watched this movie named A Man Called Otto starring Tom Hanks. It’s based on fiction and such a gem it is. The characters and the story itself is so natural that it makes you stick to the screen. A perfect movie to watch during the long weekend. Totally recommended.”

In short, A Man Called Otto is well worth watching if you want to see Tom Hanks leading a touching and heartwarming narrative, one that will no doubt have you reaching for the tissues. 

A Man Called Otto dropped on Netflix on May 6, 2023. It is also available to buy or rent on various platforms including Amazon Prime Video, which you can sign up for here.

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About The Author

Daisy is a Senior TV and Movies Writer at Dexerto. She's a lover of all things macabre, whether that be horror, crime, psychological thrillers or all of the above. After graduating with a Masters in Magazine Journalism, she's gone on to write for Digital Spy, LADbible and Little White Lies. You can contact her on daisy.phillipson@dexerto.com