Rating: *** 1/2
Only a parent of a child we call `challenged` or `disabled` knows that life can truly become extraordinary. Normal folks think it is all pain. Yes, there is quite a bit of pain, but there`s much more e.g. the ecstasy of a heightened sense of awareness where every moment becomes a miracle, the pleasure of having your notions of reality challenged and altered by such a different child and of having simple things magnified by their perspective.
Though "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close" (ELIC) is a film about a lot of other things, where it scores the most is this, the relationship of a child with special needs to his parents.
After his father (Tom Hanks) dies in the 9/11 terrorist attack, Oskar (Thomas Horn) who has Aspergers syndrome (autism spectrum disorder), has to navigate the noisy and over crowded city of New York to find the lock to a key he thinks his father has left him.
His disability makes it extremely difficult for him to do this, but he is driven by a love of his father, and a guilt to do that which should be impossible for a person with his condition. While he is doing this, he seems to be getting further away from his mother.
It is tough for anyone to lose a parent. Yet it is toughest for a person with a disability to lose one. ELIC thus becomes a representation of the complex relationship that a person with disability has with his or her parents and how drastically life changes if one or both die.
ELIC is also about other things like 9/11 and father-son relationship. It filters grief and loss through the eyes of a child, a child with a `disability`.
If you were to look at ELIC as a 9/11 movie - referring to that sub-genre of movie that emerged after that fateful incident - you will find it manipulative and needlessly melodramatic. It is one of those films that has a tear gun pointed at your tear ducts which it keeps firing every few minutes till by the end of it you can`t take it any more.
There are scenes added to the film that have no purpose but to make you cry, like when Oskar says `I love you` to his mother from behind a closed door. Good scene, but stand out like sore thumb.
Despite this if you look at the film from the outside, adding the disability angle to the story of a grieving family, this adaptation of a novel by Jonathan Safran Foer would not seem so bad. Yes, you`d know that you`ve been manipulated, but it is a manipulation you`d not mind for the grief of this family.