A Man Called Ove and A Man Called Otto
Frederik Backman wrote A Man Called Ove which was published in 2012. Backman’s novel is set in Sweden with Ove Svensson as the main character. The American 2023 film remake of the book is A Man Called Otto and stars Tom Hanks as the 49 year old widower Otto Anderson. Hanks’ son Truman plays Otto in his younger years. Names, details and backgrounds have been adapted for an American audience; for example, Otto lives in a housing estate in Pennsylvania, Parvaneh, Ove’s Iranian neighbor, becomes Otto’s Marisol from Mexico, Ove’s best friends Anita and her husband Rune become the black couple Anita and Reuben, and the supporting character Malcolm, a former student of Otto’s wife Sonja, is transgender whereas the Swedish Adrian was gay. Both Rune and Reuben have Alzheimer’s but Reuben is depicted as paralyzed and in a wheelchair. Otto still doesn’t seem to have forgiven Reuben for being a Ford man instead of a loyal Chrysler customer. To make matters even more unforgivable, Reuben buys a Toyota! The “coup” still looms large in Otto’s memory as well. Sonja still suffers the effects from the bus accident, but in the book the vacation is in Spain and in the movie it’s to Niagara Falls, which I have to say makes the failure of the lawsuit a little unbelievable since the US is so litigious in nature, and as cut and dried as the lawsuit is described in the book, the Andersons would surely have won.
The reader gleans much information from flashbacks in both the book and the movie, but there are differences. Otto does not work for the railroad as his father did but has the same affinity for machines and numbers as his father. He is an engineer and we see him get a degree in engineering. As the story in the book and movie progresses and Sonja and Otto and Ove’s lives are revealed, Otto is as depressed about missing his wife Sonja, who has died from cancer six months prior, as Ove was and tries to end his life in the same ways as Ove did. Both fail of course because circumstances get in the way which adds humor to an otherwise sad and tense situation. Without revealing too much, both the book and movie end the same way.
I thought the movie adaption of the book well done mainly because Hanks captures Otto’s curmudgeonly personality and events closely follow those in the book.