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A Man Called Otto a powerful portrayal of love of neighbor

I was surprised to find that Tom Hank’s new film is beautiful movie that focused on the importance of loving your neighbor. Interspersed with that is a subtle commentary on the value of all people.

Tom Hanks, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, and Mariana Treviño star in "A Man Called Otto". (Image: www.imdb.com)

My son and I went to see Tom Hanks’ new movie, A Man Called Otto, recently. On the way to the theater, I commented to him that I really had no idea what the plot was. He didn’t either. He simply wanted to see it because he likes Tom Hanks and the trailer looked funny.

Imagine my surprise when I found a beautiful movie that focused on the importance of loving your neighbor. Interspersed with that is a subtle commentary on the value of all people.

This is a lesson pro-life people have always tried to teach. Being pro-life is not just about saving babies. We see the value and dignity of all people—born and pre-born. And A Man Called Otto knocks this truth out of the proverbial park.

Otto is a grouchy and cantankerous widower who is deeply grieving the recent loss of his wife. In one of the opening scenes, we see Otto buying rope and causing a problem at the hardware store because he felt he was overcharged. Upon his arrival home, he meets some new neighbors—a lovely pregnant Hispanic mother named Marisol, her husband, and their two adorable daughters. Irritated with the father’s attempt to parallel park, Otto jumps in the car to do it for him.

Just a few minutes later, back in his home, Otto forms a noose, attaches it to the ceiling, and is about to secure it around his neck when there’s a knock at the door. It’s the couple. They brought him food and thanked him for his help.

The movie continues on like this, with Marisol lovingly insinuating herself and her family into Otto’s life. She can tell he’s lonely and sad, though she does not realize the extent of his grief. But it is her constant love, her outreach, and her kindness that change him and that help him see that he matters.

Otto is soon able to look outside his grief to see the pain that others around him feel—and he takes steps to help them. Through interactions with a disabled friend and a young “transgender” student, Otto comes to the realization that people need one another and that all human beings have value—even though many in the world fail to see this.

Though the inclusion of the “transgender” student seemed to be done for politically correct reasons, it does gives credence to the fact that all human beings deserve love and compassion. We don’t need to agree with or advocate for a person’s feelings and decisions to know that this person deserves love and compassion. We don’t get to assign value to one person and not another. We don’t get to pick and choose who matters. It is our job as children of God to teach His word, to treat others as He would, and to love.

The movie is a beautiful reminder that we must look out for our neighbors, whether they be our physical neighbors or people within our communities.

Marisol could have been put off by Otto’s grumpy demeanor. She could have just rolled her eyes, walked away, and written him off like many in his housing complex did. But she reached out. She welcomed him into her life. She loved him. And through her actions, she literally saved his life.

Not only that, but her actions had a snowball effect, as the broken bonds of friendship of some of the others in the complex began to heal.

With so many shallow and pointless movies out there, it was refreshing to see one that focused on the dignity of all people and one that showed how we can love through our actions.

We may never see the fruits of our kinds deeds or know the extent of how others benefit from our help, but the recipient knows. God knows. And that’s all we need.

It shouldn’t take a movie to make us see that all people have value, but it’s sure a blessing to have a movie illustrate this fact.


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About Susan Ciancio 14 Articles
Susan Ciancio is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame and has worked as a writer and editor for nearly 19 years; 13 of those years have been in the pro-life sector. Currently, she is the editor of American Life League’s Celebrate Life Magazine—the nation’s premier Catholic pro-life magazine. She is also the executive editor of ALL’s Culture of Life Studies Program—a pre-K-12 Catholic pro-life education organization.

11 Comments

  1. Saw the movie this last weekend. Agree with the review, except for the portrayal transgender person. Something else could have done, such as a girl wanting to be a nun, or maybe a Jewish boy wanting to be Catholic, but the parents through the boy or girl out. Basically I look at the transgender episode in the movie as part of Hollywood’s goal of mainstreaming of this behavior. This must be clarified, this type of thing is in all movies today, Hollywood just can’t avoid including this. Anyway it was a good movie, especially since there is certainly not much out at the movies worth seeing. Maybe there are good shows on Netflix, Amazon etc., but we like to go out to a movie.

    • Agreed.
      My feeling was that the entire movie was almost scripted to lead up to this gratuitous sequence on transgenderism. To fail to notice this apparent audience manipulation is probably a measure of how much groomed we already are by Hollywood toward transgender mainstreaming.

      To some degree, too, I had the same impression from the final scene in the entire TV series of Downton Abbey. The message of cultural change–socially and economically beginning with the disruptions of World War I, but now inevitably morally?–detracted from all of what had been scripted earlier in the series by the brilliant Catholic screen writer Julian Fellowes. (For a more moderate interpretation, see https://www.catholicworldreport.com/2020/06/14/the-exceptional-catholic-novelist-behind-the-popular-downton-abbey/)

      • I agree. This movie has already been made–I streamed it last year, maybe made in Sweeden? Not sure, had subtitles and was really touching without any agenda. I can’t imagine a new, American version would be better.

      • Just to followup on your comment, the manipulation of the transgender sequence is an important point I did not think about. Upon reflection I think you are right. Movies and almost all of today’s entertainment side purpose is to groom everyone to accept transgenderism etc. This point would be a good topic for CWR to expand on in another article.

        • From Thias, below, the coded message “Die America” (the movie’s Dye & Merica Real Estate) suggests a CWR essay. This essay could touch on two clever word games…

          First, DIE as meaning what it says, by resequencing the political ideology/acronym of the day to read “diversity, inclusivity, and equity.” A sequence carefully avoided! Second, DEI as the acronym that is actually seeping into unquestioned themes of public policy–again meaning both good intentions and overreaching ideology: “diversity, equity and inclusivity.” A congruent substitute of Socialism for GOD (Latin: DEI)?

          Subliminal script writers, as for the Otto movie, seem well qualified to serve (service!) as advisors to some well-known, pseudo-theologians, alongside the “inclusive” word merchant, Fr. James Martin.

  2. WHO IS MY NEIGHBOR?
    One in need.
    2nd great commandment, “love your neighbor”
    Movie unseen but critique understood. Point made and well it is!
    Thank you

  3. The original film, based on the book by Fredrik Backman, entitled “A Man Called Ove” (2016) is charming and touching and currently on Amazon Prime. Subtitles required if you speak only English. Adds to the experience.

    • I’m glad you mentioned this because when I read the article, I thought that this story is really A Man Called Ove.

      • Pro abortion display as well. Missed it? It was when “Otto” said his pregnant wife lost their….”.

        He could not use the word “Baby” as that would go against the pro abortion narrative that the life inside a woman is indeed a baby.

        Also not happy with the realtor company. Not even a thinly veiled “hate America” message. Hardly clever…”Dye & Merica”. Aka Die America…

        I wanted to walk out but cared about leaving my wife of 30 years alone in the theatre with the other 11 people watching.

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