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3 Life Lessons from ‘A Man Called Otto’

On a recent plane ride, I decided to pass the time by watching “A Man Called Otto.”

The only thing I knew about the movie was that Tom Hanks was in it. When it came out, I didn’t hear much about it. But with a five-hour plane ride and Hanks being one of my favorite actors, I decided to give the movie a chance.

By the end of the movie, I was crying on the plane. It was so much more than I expected.

Check out the film trailer below.

The 2022 film tells the story of Otto Anderson (Hanks), who has lost his purpose in life after the death of his wife, Sonya. When a lively young family moves into his neighborhood, it turns his world around.

During the holiday season, we all spend time reflecting on the past year and what we want to accomplish in the next one. Watching “A Man Called Otto” in November, shortly after All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day, reminded me just how precious life is and how to make the most of the time we have.

Here are three life lessons I learned from “A Man Called Otto” that were the most meaningful to me.

WARNING! There will be spoilers.

Grief is Part of Life

Grief is the pain that accompanies loss, according to Psychology Today. While it is mostly connected to the death of loved ones, it’s also felt when losing friendships, experiencing changes in health or during transitions.

Clinical psychologist Mary-Frances O’Connor explains the difference between grief and grieving. Grief is the emotional state that knocks you down or comes over you like a wave. Grieving is what happens as we adapt to a new life. This is why grief is a natural response you will always feel throughout life.

In the film, we meet Otto as he is grieving his wife, Sonya, who died just six months ago. Underneath his cranky disposition is a grieving man who wants to meet his wife on the other side. He tried to take his own life several times but was interrupted by circumstances or his neighbors.

Despite his demeanor, I had so much empathy for Otto. The movie showed me how grief and grieving can be so integrated into your life and how it’s difficult to overcome without support.

Community is Important

What ultimately pulled Otto out of grief was his community. Between Marisol (Mariana Treviño) and her family and other neighborhood friends, Otto is eventually pulled out of his grief and finds purpose in life.

Marisol encourages Otto to move on from the death of his wife, but he isn’t ready at first. And when he does find the strength to move on, she and her family are there helping him pack up Sonya’s things for donation. Otto also reconnects with Anita and Reuben (Juanita Jennings and Peter Lawson Jones), his neighbors and friends before a fallout that cost them their friendship.

Life is too hard for us to do by ourselves. We need support from family, friends and neighbors to get through hard times and to bring joy to our lives. No matter where we live and what we do in life, we are part of a community. And reaching out to each other is what helps us get through life.

Find Joy in Living

The best part of the film was to watch Otto find joy in living again. He would go to Marisol’s home and spend time with her family during the holidays. Otto started giving to his neighbors in need and even invited them to visit Sonya’s gravesite. He also had a pet cat for emotional support.

The entire movie I was rooting for Otto. I wanted him to find joy in life again. I wanted him to know that Sonya’s death didn’t have to be his too. And when he started to open up and build better relationships with his friends and neighbors, I knew that he had found a purpose to keep living.

When someone we are close to dies, it feels like part of us died too. And it’s hard to find a sense of purpose or what makes life worth living after they are gone. But there is so much joy and love on the other side of that pain. And if we can make it through, we can get to the other side.

There are a few of the life lessons I enjoyed from ‘A Man Called Otto,’ and I hope you will too. I give this movie 4 out of 5 stars for its relatability and storytelling.

What was your favorite part of the film? Please share in the comments.

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