A Man Called Otto

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Not suitable under 15; parental guidance to 15 (suicide theme)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for A Man Called Otto
  • a review of A Man Called Otto completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 10 January 2023.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 15 Not suitable due to suicide theme.
Children aged 15 Parental guidance recommended due to suicide theme.
Children aged 16 and over Ok for this age group.

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines. Other classification advice (OC) is provided where the Australian film classification is not available.

Name of movie: A Man Called Otto
Classification: M
Consumer advice lines: Suicide themes and coarse language
Length: 126 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Otto Anderson (Tom Hanks) is a grumpy, rude, old man who has lost the desire to live. His wife, Sonya (Rachel Keller), the love of his life, had died six months previously and Otto has been forced into retirement giving him no reason to live. Subsequently, he attempts suicide on several occasions, and by different means, but each time he fails for one reason or another.

When a young family moves in across the road, Otto is unprepared for the persistent and chatty Marisol (Mariana Travino), who manages to wedge her way into his life. Together, with her husband, Tommy (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), and their two delightful daughters, Luna (Christiana Montoya) and Abbie (Alessandra Perez), Marisol brings new purpose and joy to Otto’s life.


Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.


Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is some violence in this movie, including:

  • Otto hangs a noose from the ceiling and attempts to hang himself. He kicks the table away from beneath his feet and is dangling for a while before the rope gives way.
  • Otto throws a stone at a cat.
  • Otto attempts suicide again by running a hose from the exhaust pipe of his car into the car window. The car fills with fumes but Marisol finds him in time.
  • Otto threatens and harasses a clown.
  • Otto plans to jump in front of a train but another man falls onto the tracks, having suffered a heart attack. Otto jumps down to save him and is about to stay on the track, when another man pulls him out.
  • Otto pulls a driver out of a car and yells at him.
  • Otto shouts at Marisol.
  • Otto prepares a room with plastic curtains with the aim of shooting himself with a rifle. Otto remembers a lot of his life sitting in a chair with the rifle pointed at his chin. He is about to shoot when there is a loud knock at the door, distracting him and making him misfire the gun.
  • In a flashback scene, Otto and his wife, Sonya, are in a bus crash. The bus lands on its side and people and debris are strewn everywhere.
  • Otto gets into a fight with the head of the Housing Association, grabbing him by the neck.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of five, including the following:

  • Nothing further noted.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes and scary visual images, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged five to eight, including the following:

  • The cat is seen lying limp in the snow – it looks like it is dead.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged eight to thirteen, including the following:

  • Otto takes flowers to his wife’s grave and sits and talks to her.
  • Otto’s neighbour and friend, Reuben, is seen in a wheelchair, no longer able to speak or communicate.
  • Otto tells Sonya about his dad who he was very close to and how sad he was when he died.
  • Otto has a heart attack at home but again Marisol finds him and gets him to the hospital.
  • Otto recalls a holiday (shown in flashback) that he and Sonya took, when they were involved in a bus crash. Otto cries as he looks for Sonya. Sonya was pregnant at the time but lost her baby and is shown in hospital, weeping at their loss. She suffered major injuries and became a paraplegic.
  • Otto had made a cot for the baby which he’d kept and gives to Marisol for her new baby.
  • At the end of the movie Otto dies from a heart condition.

Thirteen and overinfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

  • Nothing further of concern.

Product placement

The following products are displayed or used in this movie:

  • Toyota, Ford and Chevrolet cars.

Sexual references

There are some sexual references in this movie, including:

  • Otto and Sonya hold hands and kiss. They marry and are shown in bed together.
  • A young man, called Malcolm, stops Otto in the street to tell him how much Sonya had meant to him as his teacher. Malcolm had had a sex change and Sonya was accepting and kind to him.

Nudity and sexual activity

  • None noted.

Use of substances

  • None noted.

Coarse language

There is some coarse language in this movie, including:

  • What the Hell?
  • Bastards
  • Shit
  • Bugger
  • Oh God
  • Crap
  • Holy Jeez
  • Son of a bitch
  • For God’s sake
  • Name calling such as:
    • Idiot
    • Useless
    • Nitwit
    • Pricks.

In a nutshell

A Man Called Otto is a dark drama with some light relief moments, about a man who is ‘very bad at dying’, having unsuccessfully attempted suicide on many occasions. His life is given new meaning, however, when a young family moves in next to him and manages to change his life around. The movie is about love, life, loss and new hope. Its theme of suicide makes it unsuitable for children under 15 and parental guidance is recommended for 15-year-olds.

The main message from this movie is that even when everything looks desperate, there is hope and new meaning to life if we look for it.

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • Marisol is a kind and compassionate human being who doesn’t give up on Otto, although he is very rude to her.
  • Persistence.
  • Kindness.
  • Hope.

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children attitudes and behaviours, and their real-life consequences, such as:

  • Suicide is often a difficult subject to discuss with children and this movie might give parents the opportunity to do so. It shows that there are always other ways to look at life and even though things don’t seem good in the moment, time usually has a way of bringing new hope and meaning to life.