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Extremely Moving and Incredibly Inspirational

Sarah Mervosh | Sunday, January 29, 2012


The story of “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” is not exactly coffee-break conversation material.

Director Stephen Daldry’s takes on complex and difficult issues, such as the indescribable heartbreak of 9/11, a young boy’s crippling anxiety due to a borderline Autism diagnosis and one family’s journey to rebuild and find acceptance after the death of their father.

Somehow, Daldry manages to tackle each of these issues completely, without using clichés and in a way that the average viewer can relate to. 

The movie centers on 9-year-old Oskar Schell (Thomas Horn) as he struggles to come to terms with the death of his father (Tom Hanks), who died in the 9/11 terrorist attacks, in the only way he knows how — to figure out how it “makes sense.”

When he enters his father’s closet for the first time after his   death, he accidentally discovers a key in a small manila envelope with the word “Black” on it. Convinced that it is a message from his father he goes on a maniacal search across New York City to find the lock the key fits in a last adventure of sorts. 

Oskar’s adventure not only provides the viewer with an evolving plot with twists and turns that keep you guessing, but his determination to solve his father’s last message also allows Oskar to overcome some of his own fears.

As Oskar tests the lock from Manhattan to Brooklyn, he learns to speak to and relate to strangers who share stories of their own. 

Oskar also forms a special relationship with “The Renter,” a mute elderly man (Max von Sydow) who rents a room in Oskar’s grandmother’s apartment. Unsurprisingly, a boy who has difficulty talking to new people and a mute man get along quite well, and The Renter helps Oskar on his way to healing and self-discovery.

Some of the most poignant moments in the movie come from interactions between Oskar and his mom (Sandra Bullock), as they struggle to relate to each other in a family previously connected by the man of the house. A widow’s desperation and fragility combined with a child’s anger at his mother simply because she is not his father makes for some heart-wrenchingly authentic moments. 

With names like Hanks and Bullock in this movie, great acting might have been a given. But any awards this time around will likely go to Horn, who came out of his first ever movie role with the intensity and emotional range of what might have been expected from his veteran co-stars. 

Horn has the ability to successfully portray Oskar’s insufferable grief and pain from losing his father, while also mastering his character’s endearing quirks to provide some comic relief in this emotional drama. 

Without reading the book the movie is based on, it is difficult to compare the two. However, critics have not been as receptive to the movie as they were to its book counter-part. 

Still, “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” has all the makings of a good movie — strong characters, plot suspense, moments that make you smile and moments that make you tear up. 

Join Oskar on his adventure and find yourself rooting for him, feeling his triumphs and defeats like they were your own and walking out of the theater with a teary-eyed sense of contentment.