Tom Hanks’ Otto Is An Instant Classic

A Man Called Otto is a treatise on simplicity, lucidity and compassion

Tom Hanks’ Otto Is An Instant Classic

Subhash K Jha

Rating: **** ½

In how many ways will Tom Hanks continue to surprise us with his acumen of excellence? It’s not so much about his performances—which are no doubt of a very high caliber—as the content he chooses instinctively, creating a body of work that will endure much after he is gone.

A Man Called Otto is a treatise on simplicity, lucidity and compassion. Its message, if you are sold on one, is to be kind and empathetic to the world even when you feel you have nothing to live for. The gloriously sweet-natured film shows us how futile it is to give up on life even when it seems that life has given up on you.

I was surprised to see Marc Forster’s name as the director of this simple and equanimous film which opens in your heart doors that you never  knew were closed. Barring Finding Neverland, Marc has so far made dark ditzy dramas and thrillers including the big Bond film Quantum Of Solace. The closest Marc Forester has come to the opulent artlessness of Otto  is Finding Never land which was about the playwright who created Peter Pan.

In A Man Called Otto, Tom Hanks plays a man who no longer wants to live. Not after the death of his beloved wife. As he tells his neighbour, “There was nothing before her there’s nothing after her.”

Otto finds several ways to end his life, none of them work largely because he is not meant to die. There are so many lives to be fixed, so many lies to be put to rest before he can call it quits. The primary focus of Otto’s existence becomes his neighbour, a feisty Mexican woman named Marisol (played by Mariana Trevino who is a force of nature) and her family of  husband (weak-willed and ineffective) and two livewire children.

Like it or not, these new entrants into Otto’s bleak life inject a renewed  vigour in his routine, and… well, it’s all so charmingly on-track it seems we are viewing a gallery of clichéd situations assembled in one place, and that’s exactly what it is, a luminous litany of life-giving clichés put together with illimitable warmth and tenderness.

There is a heartwarming flashback in which we see a young Otto (played by Tom Hanks’ son Truman Hanks) courting his future wife. It is  an old-fashioned courtship vignette which is deeply romantic and comforting. Indeed watching A Man Called Otto is like wearing a frayed comfortable sweater in the winter. You want to ignore its antiquity because it provides the comfort of the familiar.

They don’t make movies like A Man called Otto any more. They don’t make actors like Tom Hanks anymore either. He is a truly a showman of our times. He shows what it means to be a real man in a world filled with the steroid variety of masculinity.

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