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Something to watch tonight: Monday 4 September
A Man Called Otto (Forster, 2022) is streaming on Neon and Prime Video
Moving this week from digital rental to subscriber streaming on Neon and Prime Video, the Tom Hanks vehicle A Man Called Otto starts out by undermining Hanks’ nice guy persona but eventually – and satisfyingly – confirms it.
For a long period, I had thought that Hanks had been miscast. Not because it was too obvious that “the nicest man in Hollywood” couldn’t remain a grouch for the whole film – although that is true – but because I didn’t think the journey was going to be long enough, dramatically speaking. I could imagine Clint Eastwood playing Otto (twenty or so years ago) and having some real menace behind his terrible initial behaviour, giving the inevitable eventual redemption some meat to go with the potatoes.
Even when Hanks’ Otto is being appalling, there’s enough of a glint behind the eyes that the audience knows what’s coming.
That’s when I realised that it isn’t just the audience that can see what’s behind the curmudgeonly façade – the neighbours can, too. They loved him when his wife was still alive (although they mostly loved her) and they forgive him now she has gone.
That’s the great journey of the picture. Not Otto’s transition from grinch to do-gooder, but his realisation that he is loved – can still be loved – and his choice to live up to that love.
That’s from my review of the initial cinema release at RNZ.
Something I did not think to highlight at the time but was reminded of by a reader, was that this black comedy includes some ostensibly humorous and increasingly desperate attempts at suicide.
This particular reader had not noticed the classification “M Offensive language & suicide themes” and reviewers like myself hadn’t done a good enough job of pointing it out. As someone who was still grieving the loss of a loved one, the experience of watching an uplifting Tom Hanks movie turned out to be very upsetting for them.
I’m pleased that the description on the Neon site is much clearer: “Contains themes of self-harm and/or suicide that may be upsetting for some viewers.”
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The Prime Video publicity people ask in every press release that we not describe Prime Video as “Amazon’s Prime Video” and, now that Sky’s Prime TV has rebranded as SkyOpen maybe we can do as they ask.