”A Man Called Otto” Movie Review: New Fear Unlocked

I know it’s Barbie season, and I probably should’ve been writing about that review first as a Barbie girl and a content writer. But when I got home from the cinemas, I took a shower, put on my pajamas, jumped into bed, and turned on Netflix. I intended to fall fast asleep (because I have the bad habit of leaving the TV on ), but as “A Man Called Otto” played in the background, I couldn’t help but take a peek. Two hours later, here I am, contemplating a new fear unlocked.


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Don’t get me wrong; this is not a horror movie. The fear I’m talking about is not the one that haunts you when it’s dark and you’re alone, but the one that creeps in when you’re in a happy place and suddenly realizes that nothing lasts forever. But first, let me drop a trigger alert here before I elaborate on anything else.

We just played the first movie that popped up on the streaming platform without reading about it, so I had no idea what this movie is going to be all about. For those who have watched it or read about it, imagine the surprise! But for those wondering, its synopsis reads: “Enraged by the world and hardened by grief, a cranky retiree plots his demise but is foiled when a lively young family bursts into his life.”

The 2023 movie, which originally premiered in Philippine theaters in January, stars Tom Hanks as Otto Anderson (who portrayed his titular role effortlessly), alongside his son Truman Hanks (who played the younger version of Otto), Mariana Treviño as Marisol (who was superb), and Rachel Keller as Sonya (whose warmth and charm are captivating), with Manuel Garcia-Rulfo as Tommy and Cameron Britton as Jimmy (who both added comedy to the film). In case you haven’t seen it, here’s the official trailer of ‘A Man Called Otto’ from YouTube!”

It is based on a 2012 Swedish novel called “En man som heter Ove” by Fredrik Backman and was first turned into a film in 2015 called “A Man Called Ove” in Sweden. Unfortunately for those who dislike spoilers, I must warn you to stop reading at this point!


Life is hard, and the world can be cruel. Fortunately, Otto found solace in a woman named Sonya to face it all with. When I found out that his efforts to end it all were to be reunited with his departed wife, I instinctively thought, “I’d probably end up like that guy if that ever happened to me.” But when I found out that one of his parents died and the other one left him before he met Sonya, I felt my heartbeat pause for a second. I forgot how to breathe and my eyes leaked.

I always thought that nothing in this world could ever be enough to describe the depth of pain, loneliness, and everything in between when you lose someone you love. In this film, however, I resonated with the character who has experienced it and somehow bravely opened his heart once again to a new person. Naturally, he built his world around her, trusting her to never let him get swept away by that avalanche of emotions ever again.

The beauty of the story lies in the tiniest details—the book, the coin, and the sweaters—remnants of Sonya in the physical world. But when the clown accidentally switched his coin with a random one and Marisol insisted on boxing up Sonya’s stuff, it felt like Otto was being forced to live a life without his wife. Yet, that wasn’t the life he wanted because he had married her to live a full life beside her. Plus, the fact that they didn’t have a child only solidified just how much Sonya meant to Otto.

However, our time is not ours to tell. So, without her, who could blame a man for losing the desire to carry on? That life goes on, even after death, is a bitter pill to swallow when you’re the one who’s left behind. Witnessing how the world continues to revolve without the person who meant everything to you can be disheartening. As Otto said, “The more they babble, the more they drown out the memory of her voice.” 

If you need help, here are hotlines you can call:

  • Natasha Goulbourn Foundation (NGF) – 804-HOPE (4673), 0917 558 HOPE (4673) or 2919 (toll-free for GLOBE and TM subscribers)
  • Manila Lifeline Centre (MLC) – 8969191 or 0917 854 9191.
  • In Touch Community Services Crisis Lines – For relationship problems, addiction, abuse, and other emotional problems. 893 7603, 0917 8001123, 0922 8938944. Email at crisisline@i-manila.com.ph.
  • Living Free Foundation – For addiction, individual and marital counseling. 0917 322 7087. Email at livingfreefoundation@gmail.com.
  • Dial-a-Friend – 5251743 or 5251881.
  • National Center for Mental Health – 0917 899 8727

It unlocked this new fear in me–the fear of loving someone so much and then eventually losing them, going through all of that pain all over again, and at that moment in time, alone. On the other hand, it also reminded me that when you open up yourself to the world, the world opens itself up to you too. It hit me when Marisol said, “You think your life is so hard because everybody’s an idiot and you have to do everything on your own, right? But guess what, you can’t. No one can. And I think you should just be happy that someone was trying to help you get through a crappy day.”

Due to Otto’s big heart, he was at risk of sudden death. Initially, he only wanted to live long enough to be with his wife. Yet, it  was also because of his big heart that made him “really bad at dying.” Otto attempted multiple times to bid farewell to everything, only to have someone always knocking at his door. Thus, in the years beyond Sonya, he finally accepted that he was still family to his neighbors Anita, Reuben, and Jimmy. He also eventually became a father figure to Marisol, Malcolm, and the cat; as well as a hero to the man who fell on the tracks.

The people around him helped him live out his life just as he contributed to the community. Malcolm got him to talk about Sonya for the first time, while Marisol and her family helped the grumpy old man loosen up and finally open up about his feelings. Even Shari Kenzie helped him save his old friends Anita and Reuben’s home with Jimmy! The cat, too, accompanied him until his last breath.

a man called otto

Photo: Netflix / “A Man Called Otto”

Even with the new fear that the movie has unlocked inside me – the fear of experiencing grief all over again much later in life – the movie ends on an inspiring note. Otto didn’t get to decide when to leave the world, but by trusting the process, he found new reasons to live. He found Sonya after his father died and his mom left him, and then he found this new family after Sonya, which tells us that there’s always a life to live even after the death of our loved ones.

In conclusion, I’d say that “A Man Called Otto” is an invitation to live, even though nothing lasts forever, because NOTHING LASTS FOREVER. Not your pain, not your loneliness, and not your life. So, live. Live while you can and without regrets. Live in the moment, live your life to the fullest, and live a life well-lived – a life for others.

How about you, have you seen “A Man Called Otto”? Tell us your thoughts in the comments!

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