Losing someone is painful and heart wrenching. As humans we will go through a lot of different emotions during our time of grievance and the reaction overall will be different based on the individual. During this time, some people save things that remind them of the ones that they lost. I guess you might want to keep some kind of connection to the person who is no longer here. In the film Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Oskar Schell (Thomas Horn) feels the same way.
After his father passes away in the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Oskar goes into withdrawal. He already has a ton of phobias that wouldn't allow him to do much, but this tragic loss made everything worse. He becomes more isolated and frustrated and feels that he has no one to talk to. A year after the incident he finds a key that he believes his father (Tom Hanks) wanted him to find. Figuring that the key is supposed to be used to find something his father left for him, he decides to go around all five boroughs of New York to solve this mystery. While searching the city, he meets all kinds of people, learning about them and himself in the process.
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is the definition of a heartfelt drama. They do their best to get the audience to feel and understand what each person in the film is going through. If you've lost a parent or someone who you emotionally relied upon (especially if you were a child when it happened), you will have no issues being able to understand what's going on with this kid and the people surrounding him. This movie was more than about loss. It's also about overcoming fears, self discovery, rebuilding relationships and forgiveness.
Director Stephen Daldry and the actors do an intelligent job of humanizing the characters using tragic events in their personal lives. We see this through their interactions with one another and also during the times when they're alone. Oskar deals with the loss of his father in multiple ways. He has a very strained, spiteful and detached relationship with his mother (Sandra Bullock). He takes a lot of his frustrations out on her and even himself at times. Through Thomas Horn's portrayal of his character, we see the anger and frustration when one might feel like they're all alone with no answers and no one to guide them.
Along with a strong but slightly overacted performance of Horn, Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock should also be commended for their performances. Hanks plays the loveable dad well and he gives a glimpse into why he's been a highly regarded actor for all these years. For Bullock, she uses a subdued and subtle approach when portraying the role of a damaged and broken widowed mother. She's able to make you see the pain and anguish in her character just by looking at her face. I really liked her facial expressions as they were used to tell a story by themselves in so many of her scenes.
I did not lose anyone in the 9/11 attacks or anything, but I could relate to some of what was going on in this film, because my father passed away when I was about the same age as this kid in the film. I can definitely understand the emotions and feelings that they were trying to illustrate. This is a film that hits emotionally hard. It's not really an "inspirational film" in my opinion and I don't think it's supposed to be. It's a film about humans behaving like humans and reacting the way several of us would or have in these difficult circumstances. It also wants us to see how we can heal our wounds and improve ourselves over time.
I wouldn't be surprised if this film is nominated for a Best Picture Academy Award; it appears to have all the hallmarks that Academy voters would seem to want. Personally, I view it as a great movie driven by its emotions, and great acting from basically everyone involved. Anyway you look at it, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is a movie that deserves recognition.
Score: 3.5 / 5
Director: Stephen Daldry
Max Von Sydow
Film Length: 129 minutes
December 25, 2011 (Limited Release)
January 20, 2012 (Everywhere)
Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures