Horizon at Sandy Point

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

After the worst day

Oskar Schell (played by Thomas Horn) was the happiest boy in New York City. Beloved of a father who challenges him to never stop looking (Tom Hanks) and a protective mother (Sandra Bullock) adored by her husband; a grandmother - living in line of sight across the street - that he could wake or communicate with at anytime, he is encouraged to think of the city as his playground. His last adventure with his father is to prove that there was a sixth borough that had disappeared - like a rug pulled out from underfoot; and to do this by going out and conquering his greatest fear, talking to people.

Then, the worst day happened.

The average nine year old barely understood the impact of the planes flying into the twin towers. They were sent home early from school. Oskar's usual banter with the concierge (John Goodman) is a mark of their familiarity. Inside, the phone rings and rings; and Oskar doesn't answer. Later, he listens to six messages from his father, from "I am here waiting to be told what to do"to "Are you there?" desperately repeated again and again, and the final "I love you." These messages, he decides, are directed to him personally - he is guilty of not picking up and guilty of selfishly keeping these voice mails to himself. He later switches out the phone so not even his mother can hear them.

Almost a year passes before Oskar looks at his father's possessions again. He searches for an antique camera and knocks down a vase which spits out a key in an envelope labelled with a single name, Black. The quest to find the lock that the key would open becomes all-consuming. It would, he believes, unlock some essential clue to his father.

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is a story that echoes across thousands of lives disrupted and damaged when the planes flew into the Twin Towers. It is also an intimate story of fatherhood: Oskar's jeweller father (Thomas Schell and Son) dreams up wild adventures for his introverted child. Thomas admits that he never knew his own father from Dresden Germany who disappeared just around the time he was born.

Oskar's quest for the lock which the key will open, becomes the way to reconnect with the father he lost - and who he imagines as one of those men tumbling, turning and spinning on their way down from the tower's top floors. He meets the Renter at his Grandma's house, one who has been struck dumb from something also extremely loud and incredibly close that took away both his parents.

The search is not fruitless, and is resolved in a way that returns his father through the heart of his mother.

The movie Extremely loud and incredibly close was released in 2011, ten years since the 9/11 bombing. It is simply told through the voice and memory of Oskar Schell, who lost his father, found his grandfather, and discovered that New York City could still be a safe place. After the worst day, if you're not dead, life will get better.

It's well worth seeing how different persons - even members of close and loving families - deal with the unexpected unfair loss of a loved one. Watch it on HBO Movies on Demand this month (April 2013).

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