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Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Sr. Rose Pacatte, F.S.P.

Oskar (Thomas Horn) lives comfortably with his mother Linda Schell (Sandra Bullock) and dad, Thomas (Tom Hanks), in a upper Manhattan apartment. His grandmother (Zoe Caldwell) lives in the building next door, but Oskar and she can see one another.
Oskar is sent home from school on September 11, 2001 but doesn’t know why. He is about to eat a snack when the phone rings. He lets it go to message and realizes it is his dad. He doesn’t answer any of the calls and that night sneaks out to buy a new answering machine and hides the old one. For a 10 year-old kid, Oskar is brilliant and resourceful. And, as he tells us in the extensive voice-over narration in the film, he is probably somewhere on the Asperger’s spectrum but the results were undetermined.
A year later Oskar finds a key in a envelope hidden in a blue vase on a shelf in his father’s closet. He then starts on a journey of discovery and vows to never stop searching for the answer. After all, his dad always had him searching for Manhattan’s sixth borough and Oskar was always looking for clues.
For some,  “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close”, based on the 2005 novel by Jonathan S. Foer, and directed by Stephen Daldry (“Billy Elliott”, “The Hours”, “The Reader”), may seem too talkative, too noisy. Oskar is never silent, his hands always busy, and he is always afraid and anxious. He is also heartbroken and lonely.
In that brief scene when he enters his father’s closet that his mother has never touched since 9/11, he pulls a jacket or a tie to his face, to take in his father’s scent. I never felt the loss of 9/11 so keenly as in that moment.
The film creeps along with Oskar; we are his invisible companions but he knows we are there. The filmmakers are to be commended for letting us in to the inner life of Oskar in credible ways.
Oskar makes many discoveries on his mathematically precise journey, and the past emerges to comfort him. He is also surprised by love, and this is what the movie, at its heart, is all about. And if it is about love, it is about hope and faith.
I loved it, as hard as it was to experience September 11 through the eyes and life of this child who feels everything so intensely.

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Charles de Foucauld: Born into an aristocratic family in Strasbourg, France, Charles was orphaned at the age of six, raised by his devout grandfather, rejected the Catholic faith as a teenager and joined the French army. Inheriting a great deal of money from his grandfather, Charles went to Algeria with his regiment, but not without his mistress, Mimi. <br /><br />When he declined to give her up, he was dismissed from the army. Still in Algeria when he left Mimi, Charles reenlisted in the army. Refused permission to make a scientific exploration of nearby Morocco, he resigned from the service. With the help of a Jewish rabbi, Charles disguised himself as a Jew and in 1883 began a one-year exploration that he recorded in a book that was well received. <br /><br />Inspired by the Jews and Muslims whom he met, Charles resumed the practice of his Catholic faith when he returned to France in 1886. He joined a Trappist monastery in Ardeche, France, and later transferred to one in Akbes, Syria. Leaving the monastery in 1897, Charles worked as gardener and sacristan for the Poor Clare nuns in Nazareth and later in Jerusalem. In 1901 he returned to France and was ordained a priest. <br /><br />Later that year Charles journeyed to Beni-Abbes, Morocco, intending to found a monastic religious community in North Africa that offered hospitality to Christians, Muslims, Jews, or people with no religion. He lived a peaceful, hidden life but attracted no companions. <br /><br />A former army comrade invited him to live among the Tuareg people in Algeria. Charles learned their language enough to write a Tuareg-French and French-Tuareg dictionary, and to translate the Gospels into Tuareg. In 1905 he came to Tamanrasset, where he lived the rest of his life. A two-volume collection of Charles' Tuareg poetry was published after his death. <br /><br />In early 1909 he visited France and established an association of laypeople who pledged to live by the Gospels. His return to Tamanrasset was welcomed by the Tuareg. In 1915 Charles wrote to Louis Massignon: “The love of God, the love for one’s neighbor…All religion is found there…How to get to that point? Not in a day since it is perfection itself: it is the goal we must always aim for, which we must unceasingly try to reach and that we will only attain in heaven.”   <br /><br />The outbreak of World War I led to attacks on the French in Algeria. Seized in a raid by another tribe, Charles and two French soldiers coming to visit him were shot to death on December 1, 1916. <br />Five religious congregations, associations, and spiritual institutes (Little Brothers of Jesus, Little Sisters of the Sacred Heart, Little Sisters of Jesus, Little Brothers of the Gospel and Little Sisters of the Gospel) draw inspiration from the peaceful, largely hidden, yet hospitable life that characterized Charles. He was beatified on November 13, 2005. American Catholic Blog You know, O my God, I have never desired anything but to love you, and I am ambitious for no other glory.

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