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Davis Journal

The Movie Guru: Light and darkness with ‘A Man Called Otto,’ ‘The Pale Blue Eye’

Jan 12, 2023 11:54AM ● By Jenniffer Wardell

A Man Called Otto (in theaters)

Sometimes, a comforting movie is exactly what you need to make it through January.

If that sounds like you, then you should definitely try “A Man Called Otto.” The new movie is a sweet, occasionally somber, and ultimately redemptive story of the good that comes from reaching out to people. The entire cast is great, particularly Tom Hanks and Mariana Treviño, and even though you'll know what’s coming you’ll appreciate the journey. 

An adaptation of the novel and 2015 Swedish movie “A Man Called Ove,” the movie focuses on Hanks as a depressed curmudgeon. He keeps making half-hearted attempts to kill himself, only to be distracted by a family who moves in next door. Though he initially sees their requests for help as annoying, their continued presence soon has a profound effect on his life. 

Hanks is fantastic as Otto, capturing all the nuances of what could have been just a stock character. Treviño is equally incredible as Marisol, who seems like an unorganized mess but is really trying hard to save Otto from himself. Together, they’re even more of a delight.
There are no surprises here, but it’ll leave you feeling good. Sometimes, that’s what matters most. 

Grade: Three and a half stars

The Pale Blue Eye (Netflix)

Sometimes, the biggest mystery is the human heart. 

That’s key to understanding “The Pale Blue Eye,” a grim, engaging, and ultimately heartbreaking period mystery. Christian Bale and Harry Melling offer most of the draw as the central crime-solving duo, one a grizzled detective and the other a young cadet Edgar Allan Poe. While there are plenty of twists and turns, along with a touch of the supernatural, it’s the very human element of these two men that will stay with you the longest. 

The movie is set in 1830, when a seeming suicide at the West Point Academy takes a grisly turn. This prompts officials to call in veteran detective Augustus Landor (Bale) who soon recruits the young Poe (Melling) to help him solve the mystery. They work to untangle the mystery as bodies pile up, delving deeper into the darkness and the murderous secrets of seemingly trusted individuals. 

There are some significant twists in the last stretch of the film, both of which fit better into the movie than other critics have suggested. The first works if you set the movie in the same vaguely supernatural reality that all of Poe’s work is set in. The second twist makes sense if you realize that the first several minutes of the movie contain vital character clues. 

Bale does a great job with Landor, a detective with secrets of his own, but it’s Melling who is the real delight. They’re at their best together, a pair of lonely outcasts who find some companionship and understanding with another person on the fringes. It’s due to them that the ending works as well as it does, a poignant, heartbreaking moment even Poe himself might have appreciated. 

Grade: Three stars

Jenniffer Wardell is an award-winning movie critic and member of the Utah Film Critics Association. Find her on Twitter at @wardellwriter or drop her a line at [email protected].