Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (2011)
Even from the brief but lilting and delicate opening titles and a young boys notion of skyscrapers underground filled with the bodies of the dead, you can tell this is going to be something unique. With a simple scene and an unrolled map, the search for the sixth Borough was on.
"Why aren't you in school?"
"They say I know too much already."
Oskar Schell is an inquisitive but complicated young boy, lovingly nurtured, the son of a simple and loving Jeweller father living in an apartment in New York. One of the last things his father ever asked him to do, before dying on 9/11, was to find the sixth Borough, the infamous missing part of New York. And with this task set, he never comes home again. But as if giving him clues from the grave, Oskar finds a new way of continuing the search even in his fathers absence, eeking out what time he feels he has left with him, with the last mutual interest they shared. Likening the eight minutes it takes for the suns rays to hit the earth, he imagines that his search for the sixth borough is his last eight minutes with his now dead father. He hopes to make it last forever, such was the love for his departed parent, staving off the inevitable truth of loss. But now he has a key, but what lock does it fit?
Oskar's investigations bring him into contact with an eclectic group of individuals, all living through their own day to day issues with a New York in aftermath, some terror related, some not, yet all of them relevant to his search, whether he is aware of this or not.
Thomas Horn plays the part of Oskar outstandingly well for a boy of his age. Wide eyed with wonder and curiosity, he lights up the screen. At times he is cocksure, especially in conversation with doorman Stan (John Goodman) in his building. Mostly, however, he is completely alone and single-mindedly blinkered. His relationship with his mother (Sandra Bullock) becomes strained as he becomes more introverted, less willing to share his notions, knowing that his mother would fail to understand his plans. Bullock is also excellent here when the story shifts focus and concentrates on her justifying burying an empty box in the ground to Oskar.
And then comes Max Von Sydow, the mute tenant in his Grandmothers apartment with 'Yes' written in one palm and 'No' in the other. Here Oskar has someone to listen to him, without judgement, someone to play oxymoron word battles like he did with his father (even if half of the game was written on paper) and help him look for the elusive lock that the key fits.
This is a terribly heart-breaking story of the loss of just one individual on an unforgettable day for tens of thousands of people in and around New York City. Stephen Daldry is very sensitive and respectful of the subject matter and never so much as skips near controversy, preferring to shy away of posturing, preferring a purely intimate recanting of the emotional after effects. A lovely film, that will occasionally make you wish you gave more thought to your loved ones as often as it makes you think that it is just a little bit twee. Despite this, I can recommend this to anyone, as ultimately it has several positive messages that everyone can appreciate.