I watched the dvd Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close this week. It deals with the attack on the Twin Towers on 9-11. Many people died that day but this is about one man who died. One man who loved his wife and had a warm nurturing relationship with his young son. The son is somewhere on the Aspergers syndrome spectrum. He is very precocious and has a very imaginative mind. He also has a lot of fears about the real world. After 9-11 his fears only get worse. He tries to construct his own safe haven in his home, a place he retreats to to try to stay close to his father. One day he gets up the courageous to go into his father's closet and he accidentally knocks over a vase which shatters and an envelope falls out. In the envelope he finds a key with the word BLACK on it. Before the day his father died he created scavenger hunts for his son to get him out of the house and help him overcome his fears of the outside world. Oskar (the young boy) thinks this was his dad's last scavenger hunt for him. So, he devises an impossible plan to track down every person named Black in NYC. There are thousands. He figures it will take him 3 years. But, more importantly it gives him a way to keep his father close. He meets a lot of people and he always wants to know what their stories are. He takes their pictures and keeps a journal of his discoveries. The journey of the Key is not what he thought it was -a last message from his dad, but it becomes the best way he could have found to deal with his grief and anger. In the process of looking for the key he finds many stories of loss and love. A mysterious mute old man (played wonderfully by Max von Sydow) helps him on his search for what the key unlocks but he eventually has to give up and Oskar loses him, too (he has his own story of loss that bisects Oskar's life in an interesting way).
Oskar is played by a boy who never acted before and who was seen on Kid Jeopardy and then recruited for the role. He is in every scene and his performance is Oscar worthy. Oskar's loss on what he calls the Worst Day of his Life is deeply painful and seems unbearable at times. Oskar's fits of rage are mostly directed at his mother (Sandra Bullock) and himself. Losses like these are never healed completely. Time does not do it. Love is a better healer and the shared loss of a community of people helps, too. Oskar has the support of a loving and caring family and he meets people - a community of shared loss -that gets him past his anger and grief and fears to the point where he can live in the real world. It's a modern parable for our times.