The trailer of ‘A Man Called Otto’ hides an important plot point
The trailer for Tom Hanks’s new movie ‘A Man Called Otto’ alters the movie’s tone and excludes a major plot point — one that audience members should be made aware of before watching
If you have been to the movie theater or spent time surfing YouTube within the past couple of weeks, you may have happened upon the trailer for the film “A Man Called Otto,” starring Tom Hanks. Over jangly pop music, humorous, heartwarming moments from the movie flash across the screen. It’s an almost syrupy trailer, promising a movie for the whole family. The lightness is surprising when you find out there is an important element of “A Man Called Otto” that has been left out.
Otto attempts suicide several times throughout the movie.
How does the trailer obscure what ‘A Man Called Otto’ is really about?
“A Man Called Otto” follows Otto Anderson, who is lonely and bereft after the death of his beloved wife. Based on the Swedish novel “A Man Called Ove” by Fredrik Bakman and the 2015 Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award nominated movie of the same name, Otto is unable to move forward from his pain until a boisterous young family moves in across the street and Otto becomes reluctant friends with them. At the risk of spoiling the ending, Otto does not take his own life, but goes on to find happiness and purpose.
“A Man Called Otto” is a sweet movie, one that reminded me of Pixar’s “Up,” but the exclusion of its depiction of suicide attempts and suicidal ideation from trailers distorts the true tone and content of the movie.
Unlike the trailer, “A Man Called Otto” does not hide the fact that Otto makes preparations to end his life — much to the movie’s credit. The scenes featuring the attempts are detailed, presented with a compassionate tone, yet with a tinge of black comedy that may make some uncomfortable. Any depictions of suicide attempts may make some uncomfortable, yet for such a significant plot point one would not know about it if they had only watched the trailer and not heard of the novel and Swedish movie that “A Man Called Otto” was based on.
Should viewers know about potentially triggering content beforehand?
Suicide and depictions of suicide are a sensitive topic, and potentially triggering, with what is known as the Werther Effect, a rise in copycats often linked to graphic depictions in TV shows. Named after the main character of Goethe’s “The Sorrow of Young Werther,” a recent example of the Werther Effect is when the Netflix show “13 Reasons Why” was linked to a 28.9% increase in teen suicide.
Suicide and suicidal ideation is not always an inappropriate or taboo subject. Studies have proven the flipside of the Werther Effect, the Papageno Effect — named for the character from Mozart’s Opera “The Magic Flute” who is dissuaded from killing himself by three sprites — which holds that when “positive details of coping during moments of crisis are in coverage of suicides, it may have a protective quality for those who may be experiencing thoughts of suicide themselves.”
Audience members going into the movie theater for “A Man Called Otto,” expecting a heartwarming romp after only having watched the trailer, will find themselves watching detailed depictions of suicide attempts. Including a hint of any serious topics that a movie touches upon is an easy way to let viewers know beforehand.
The national suicide prevention lifeline at 988 provides assistance 24 hours a day. Suicide and crisis prevention hotlines in Utah can be found here.