Most of us in this country, indeed most of those in the civilized world, have a memory of where they were and how they felt on September 11, 2001. Many, too many, have painful and permanent losses to deal with. For myself, we were far from home on that day, and I truly felt that the world we knew had ended. Which, in fact it had. So when it was announced that there would be a movie, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, which would touch on those tragic events, our first response was, “No, we don’t think so.” Then we learned who was to be in this movie, and the cast included so many of our favorite actors: Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock, Viola Davis, Jeffrey Wright, Max von Sydow, John Goodman, people we felt we could trust to do such a subject justice, and we said, “Well….” Then we learned more about the story of the film (and story is everything, to us) and we asked ourselves, “How could we not see it?”
And I’m so very glad we did. Everyone is predictably excellent. The story is beautifully done, at the same time simple and deeply layered. The child actor makes you believe he is dealing with the personal problems of the child character. These problems would be unique and difficult enough, if they did not also include the loss of an incredible father under horrific circumstances, and you share the pain of this family of grandmother, mother and son, while the story is told from so many different directions. Being one of those who cry at Hallmark commercials, I am always loathe to see any movie or play or read any book that wants to make me cry. But this movie is not like that. I did just fine throughout the entire story, experiencing it intensely but dry-eyed. Until the end. Until I got to the point where I could fully appreciate the efforts this family made to move forward, the grace with which they and the families they represented dealt with what they were given. Until I could see the wonder of the story.
It was terrible in the parts that invoked the events that we already knew had happened; it became wonderful beyond my power of description because of a boy on a swing. And then I wept.