I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about this film. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. I knew it was a film about September 11th, indirectly. I knew it was about a boy with Asperger’s, indirectly. The combination of those qualities both compelled and deterred me from wanting to see this film.
The film is directed by Stephen Daldry and adapted from the same-titled book by Jonathan Safran Foer. Foer also wrote the book Everything is Illuminated, which was too made into a film, starring Elijah Wood, and I really liked that movie. So why didn’t I run to theaters to see this one?
Do any of us really face the things we know are going to be difficult with running feet and waving cash in hand?! Not in my world. But Tuesday morning announced the 84th Academy Award Nominees, and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close was among the nine films nominated for Best Picture. It’s getting a fair amount buzz early on from the critics as the surprise nomination. Sure, they’re banking on the films with homage to the film industry, such as lead nominee, Hugo, and the black and white flick The Artist, but there’s something about this film.
What could an audience learn about a situation that makes no sense at all, from a boy who has to have a practical and scientific explanation for everything? After seeing the film, I think quite a lot.
I’m not giving anything away to tell you that the film begins with the events of 9/11. It is still difficult to see and unable to understand. For Oskar Schell, the protagonist, it is a life changing day that will set him on a new course. Oskar loses his father, played by Tom Hanks, in the destruction of the World Trade Center. Oskar’s father was the closest person to him and had a way of explaining things and teaching things in a way that was perfect for Oskar. This boy, is only my second encounter with a child with Asperger’s Syndrome, a type of autism. I hadn’t even heard of Asperger’s until last year, when my local library led a book discussion with all the local schools and community using Kathryn Erskine’s Mockingbird, the story of another child with Asperger’s who tries to make sense of her brother’s death caused by a school shooting.
When his father is taken from him by “people he didn’t even know,” Oskar can’t make sense of why his father left. A year after his father’s death, Oskar finds a key and decides if he can find what the key unlocks it will make him closer to his father and make sense of the unknown. What follows is a series of encounters with individuals who will inspire you, irritate you, and make you laugh, told from the perspective of a boy with unwavering determination and courage. By putting himself out there, again and again, in social situations that are difficult for him, Oskar will change the lives of everyone he meets, including that of his own family.
There’s something to say for the way our Nation comes together in times of need. We’ve shared a history of despicable and unthinkable hatred toward one another. But in times of great loss, in times of disaster, in the times when life does not make sense, we have a way of reaching out to one another. And what better reminder of how important that is than a story of one little boy who overcame fear to get extremely loud and incredibly close.
Here’s hoping I’ll see you all at the movies! Have you had an experience where life challenged you to make sense of the unknown? What helps you overcome that fear? What change do you wish our nation would make in order for us to be extremely loud and incredibly close? Do you yourself live out that change? Why or why not?