If Tom Hanks’ oddball performance (and accent) as Col. Parker in Elvis threw you for a loop in 2022, then prepare to hop back on the Tom Hanks love train as we usher in 2023. Hanks is perfectly cast as Otto Anderson in the Americanized adaptation of the best-selling book “A Man Called Ove”—a book that was already made into an excellent, 2016 Oscar-nominated Swedish film, En man som heter Ove. I was skeptical that A Man Called Otto, filmed in Pittsburgh, could possibly measure up. Yet thanks to Hanks, it does—with a solid assist from his co-star Mariana Treviño, and a stray cat.

Otto (Hanks) is a bitter curmudgeon who becomes unmoored after the loss of his beloved wife Sonya. His grief is compounded by forced retirement from his longtime job. He decides that life is not worth living anymore, so he goes about making plans for a clean exit. His efforts are stymied, however, by the arrival of a new family into his gated community. That family includes Marisol (Treviño), the very pregnant mother of two rambunctious girls. Marisol is a spitfire who sees through Otto’s dismissive demeanor and challenges him to re-engage in the community.

As Otto begrudgingly lets Marisol and her family infiltrate his life, an unlikely friendship forms, throwing Otto’s meticulous planning into disarray. Otto’s always been a penny pincher, a stickler for the rules, and a man who does not suffer fools lightly. As we learn through flashbacks (with Tom Hanks’ son Truman playing the younger Otto), his wife Sonya had a knack for keeping Otto grounded and exposing the kind heart beneath his gruff, perfectionist exterior. When she died, his heart broke.

A Man Called Otto is poignant and sad, occasionally sappy, and frequently funny in a sharp and sarcastic kind of way. And like the book it is based on, the film underscores the importance of finding purpose in life, connecting with friends and neighbors, and recognizing the signs of loneliness and isolation. A Man Called Otto ends with an appeal to “Take action for yourself and be there for others.” What’s not to love about that? Check it out—then check on a neighbor. And read the book!

A Man Called Otto opens wide January 13, 2023.

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