It feels wrong to root for a suicide attempt to succeed. Otto Anderson tries via rope, gas, train, and rifle and fails each time. Since his beloved wife, Sonia, died from cancer six months back, Otto feels no reason to keep living. When not trying to off himself, he spends his days flying off the handle at neighbors who don’t follow his myriad but inchoate rules of decorum. Everyone’s an idiot, and nothing’s like it used to be. But what is this golden-hued past Otto longs to return to?
We’re forced to relive his glory days through copious flashbacks, but what’s clear to me, just as in every present-day scene, is that Otto is an emotionally stunted, possibly autistic man tolerated by loved ones and coworkers until they die or can no longer bear him. When a young family moves in across the street, Otto is distracted from his preparations for the afterlife and convinced via Hallmark-card-level emotional trickery to stick around. The movie is cringeworthy when not outright offensive in its broad-strokes handling of everything from aging to gentrification to racism to gender issues. It’s as if the filmmakers did a keyword search for hot-button cultural topics and sprinkled them in pell-mell without bothering to read past the bullet points.
I haven’t read the 2012 Swedish book or 2015 film that this is based on, but I can’t imagine either could be half as tone-deaf. Otto’s bloviating about the past is a close cousin to chants of “You will not replace us,” no matter the crudely applied multicultural makeover. Tom Hanks has practically trademarked likability, but his Otto is not only loathsome but wholly unbelievable. To begin with, no one with an engineering degree would ever fail to get a noose to work. PG-13, 126 min.