Overall Impression – An extremely simple story that makes an incredibly complex film.  The best movie I’ve seen this year.


Who’s your main character? – 9-year-old,  slightly autistic Oskar Schell.

What’s he trying to accomplish? – Professional: Find the lock that fits the key he believes his father left for him. Personal: Deal with the anger and alienation he feels towards his mother.  Private: Overcome his fears and learn that life can continue without his father.

Who’s trying to stop him? – Slightly, only slightly, his mother (but this is a deception.)  It’s the enormity of the task that poses the real obstacle, however there is someone whose actions unwittingly send Oskar down many wrong paths early on.

What happens if he fails? – He never connects with his mother and he loses his grasp on the world.


Orphan – Oskar is coping with (most likely) Asperger’s, which already makes him an orphan in a certain sense.  After the death of his father on 9/11 Oskar is orphaned further and most profoundly, as he had the most wonderful relationship with his father in the history of father-son relationships.

Wanderer – Oskar finds a key hidden in his father’s closet which he believes unlocks a message.  Going by the only word written on the envelope the key was in — ‘Black’ — Oskar sets out to find everyone in New York named Black and see if they knew his father and/or know anything about the key.

Warrior – When the enormity of the task starts to overwhelm him, Oskar teams up with ‘the Renter,’ the mysterious old man who is renting a room at his grandmother’s apartment.  Oskar fights to learn more about the Renter and grapples more strongly with his feelings of loss while fighting to overcome his many fears.

Martyr – Once Oskar discovers the key’s rightful owner and that it truly wasn’t meant for him, Oskar gives up even discovering what mystery the key unlocks (in reality, a message to another grieving son).  He discovers the lengths his mother went to in order to keep him safe and learns to give up his grief and anger, and by doing so discovers the hidden message his father really did leave for him.


Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close is unabashedly emotional, sentimental, and heartbreaking.  It is also exquisitely crafted.  The script has levels of complexity that are so subtly presented that the hand of the writer is almost invisible in spite of the scenery-chewing dialog delivered by Thomas Horn who plays Oskar.  ‘Scenery-chewing’ in this instance is a high compliment.  The story rests on his previously untested shoulders (his only prior credit was winning ‘Kid’s Week’ on Jeopardy).

I’m curious to see how well the movie does; can a story as challenging as this, dealing with the tragedy of 9/11, find an audience?  I hope so.   This is now the second movie I’ve seen recently (The Descendants is the other) made by adults, for adults, and with screenplays that hit their beats and plot points with intelligence and grace beyond measure.

— Jeffrey Alan Schechter

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