A Man Called Otto is the US adaptation of the 2015 Swedish film, A Man Called Ove, based on the bestselling 2012 novel of the same name by Fredrick Backman.
The US film is a faithful retelling of the Swedish, with new names for an English speaking audience ostensibly being the only difference.
Ove, who is played by Swedish actor Rolf Holder Lassgard (now 68) is now called Otto, and played by Amercian superstar Tom Hanks (now 67). Both leading men are widowers, whose wives were both called Sonja, spelt slightly differently.
Both Ove and Otto attempt to kill themselves, unsuccessfully, first by hanging, then by gassing themselves with carbon monoxide and finally by shotgun. Otto is interrupted by his new neighbours: pregnant Marisol, who is from Mexico, her husband Tommy, and their daughters Abby and Luna, who try to befriend him. (In the original film, Ove is likewise interrupted by his new neighbours, except she is an Iranian immigrant called Parvane, who has a Swedish husband and two children).
In both versions, Otto helps his ageing neighbour Anita, despite holding a grudge against her husband – Rune in the Swedish version and Reuben in the US version, both paralysed and non-verbal stroke survivors. Ove overcomes prejudices to support a young gay man, Mirsad, while Otto welcomes into his home a transgender student, Malcolm.
I have watched both versions and the latest release appears to more strident in its message about accepting people regardless of their gender or race but perhaps that’s just because I am the creature of a similar culture.
The plots diverge in only one significant way, with the introduction in A Man Called Otto of a pesky social media journalist called Sharie Kenzie who becomes a catalyst towards the end of the film. I usually prefer British and European films, and enjoy other languages washing over me while reading subtitles, but in this case, Tom Hanks and his fellow cast members do a decent job. A Man Called Otto does good work to challenge bigotry, show us how dangerous isolation and loneliness can be and remind us how important it is to reach out and connect.
If you or someone you know needs help, please contact:Lifeline
– 0800 543 354 or (09) 5222 999 within AucklandYouthline
– 0800 376 633, free text 234 or email firstname.lastname@example.org or online chatSamaritans
– 0800 726 666Suicide Crisis Helpline
– 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)
Visit the Life Matters Suicide Prevention Trust | Te Whare Oranga Ngākau at https://www.lifematters.org.nz/