‘A Man Called Otto’ Characters: Otto Anderson, And Marisol, Explained

We used to think of the Grinch whenever the word “grumpy” came to our minds. But with the movie “A Man Called Otto” and its central character, we have come to change the way we define grumpy. The movie dives deeper into the life of Otto after he has lost his wife, Sonya, and his entire world with her. She was the color in his gray world. Her death seems to mark an end to any happiness or joy in Otto’s life. Until Marisol and her vibrant family move in across the street. The joyful Spanish family comes into Otto’s life like a breath of fresh air. As the movie progresses, we see Otto’s draining hope and his diminishing will to live. However, Marisol and his other neighbors strive to keep their faith in him alive and help him move on similar to the movie “Gran Torino” where a Thai family uplifts old Walt’s spirits after his wife’s death. The movie also comments on the racial prejudices prevalent in a lot of people’s mindsets even in modern times. 


Adapted from the novel, “A Man Called Ove,” the film is directed by Marc Forster where maestro actor Tom Hanks plays the titular character wonderfully. He is able to capture the sad and angry essence of the character. It seems like every character other than Otto is happy and living life to the fullest. This creates a contrast between him and the other secondary characters. A character-driven story through and through, the plot of the movie revolves solely around Otto and his struggles to keep up with life.

Spoilers Ahead


Otto Anderson 

Otto’s character is complex yet easy to understand. His feelings about various things are dictated by his past memories and experiences. He is very particular about rules and the proper way of doing things, from not letting random people pass by their private street to putting the garbage in the correct bins. His personality is predominantly sad and angry, which further impacts the way he lives his life and does routine activities. He is put off by unnecessarily happy and excited people, as his inner joy was lost the day his wife died. Consequently, he has tried numerous times to kill himself and join Sonya in the afterlife. He is desperate to leave this world behind and be with the woman he loves most. This is the extent to which he has lost his will to live. Nonetheless, all his attempts are interrupted by someone or other knocking on his door and pulling him away from the proverbial oncoming train.

Otto aspires to keep doing something as it distracts him from his intrusive thoughts. Due to his age, his workplace reduces his hours and his responsibilities, which ultimately makes him choose to retire. Eventually, with nothing to do all day, he involves himself with his neighbors and takes care of his surroundings. When Otto is not trying to take his own life, he is helping people around him despite his grumpy nature. This comes from his need to have stuff done right and the fact that he thinks everyone is an idiot. He eventually has to show people how to do it. However, on the flip side, we also see this as a sign that Otto is actually a very kindhearted person. Before his wife’s death, he had friends, and he was even the head of the homeowner’s association. Otto has always been a responsible and dependable person.


Speaking about his relationship with Sonya, they met when they were very young. The couple has essentially spent their entire life together. They got married soon after college as they couldn’t wait to start their lives together. After that, they moved into a new house and built the life of their dreams. Soon after, Sonya got pregnant with their first child. Sonya wished to do something special before the baby’s arrival. The couple took a romantic trip to Niagara Falls. On their way back, they met with an accident that left Sonya paralyzed from the waist down. They lost their child in the accident too. While it left them heartbroken, Sonya encouraged Otto to continue living his life. This memory sustained Otto’s remaining will to live. He takes care of her without a single complaint and adjusts everything in the house for her convenience. Otto loved Sonya with all his heart. Without her, there would be no color or happiness in his life. He forgot to smile and laugh after her death. Now, all he is left with are painful memories and an empty house where everything reminds him of her.

Even now, he continues to visit Sonya’s grave regularly. Once, while he is caught up in resolving other people’s issues and matters, he forgets to visit the grave for a few days. So, he decides to take Marisol’s entire family along with him. This is an extremely heartwarming scene as it shows how Otto lets Marisol and her family into his life despite his sadness and anger. Moreover, even though Otto is old-fashioned and holds his values close to his heart, he is tolerant and understanding in the ways that matter. For example, when Malcolm reveals that he used to be Sonya’s student and is transgender, Otto does not get offended or act rudely. Even when he comes over asking for a place to crash, Otto sees how unreasonable Malcolm’s parents are being and lets him stay in his house. Otto’s demeanor stems from the proverbial hole in his heart left by his wife’s death. He is not hateful as a person; he is just extremely annoyed at the hand he got dealt.  In the end, he takes his inability to kill himself as a sign from Sonya to keep on living and enjoy life while he can. After this acceptance, Otto stops trying to take his own life and gets along well with his neighbors. He even clears out some of Sonya’s stuff in an attempt to move on.



The outgoing and vibrant Marisol has a loving family. She is a mother to two beautiful daughters, with another kid on the way. Her relationship with Tommy, her husband, is inspiring. She puts up with his quirks and calmly navigates through the issues of their routine life. With Otto, Marisol is the only person who sees him beyond his grumpiness. Marisol brings out the kindness and big heartedness in him. From babysitting the kids to learning to drive from Otto, she always lends a hand to help him out of his loneliness. On the other hand, she has no boundaries. She constantly pokes her nose into othefr people’s business. She keeps bothering Otto with her questions and tries to know more about his past.

Furthermore, her colorful personality brightens up the screen. She is emotional and mature with respect to situations that call for openness and understanding. This is how she gets Otto to talk about the things that bother him. After baring his soul to her, Otto also feels better and ultimately confides in her. While she breaks down at the smallest of things, she is strong enough to keep her family together and help anyone in need. Her strength inspires Otto, which leads to his leaving his legacy and his assets solely to Marisol. Otto believed in her and encouraged her to take charge of her own destiny. Their relationship starts out rough but goes on to become one of the most heartwarming ones in the story.


Notify of

1 Comment
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Vidhi Narula
Vidhi Narula
Bio: With a degree in Journalism and Mass Communication, Vidhi puts her skills to use for dissecting and analyzing the essence of entertainment features. She loves writing about movies and shows that fascinate her. Her love for the numerous fictional worlds grows with every piece of content she consumes. All she hopes to do is deepen her knowledge of the world on screen and widen her horizons by watching movies from across the world.

Latest articles