Story

Oskar Schell (Thomas Horn) is a young boy with Asperger’s disorder or autism whose dad Thomas (Tom Hanks) died in the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York. Oskar is having trouble coming to terms with the loss of his father, who he was very close to. When he finds a key among his father’s belongings, he thinks it will lead to something his father has left for him.

Oskar sets out on the impossible task of finding out what the key opens – a task he compares to solving a mathematical equation. Over many months he searches for the answer, which he hopes will make some sense of the chaos following September 11. Along the way he meets many people. Eventually Oskar does find an answer – but not the one he was looking for.

Themes

The September 11 2001 attacks in the United States; loss of a parent; autism and Asperger’s disorder

Violence

This movie contains some violence. For example:

  • There are several visual images and newsreel footage of the attacks on the World Trade Center.
  • Oskar has episodes when he loses control, screams and lashes out at anything he can hit, break and destroy.
  • Oskar pinches himself and is seen with bruises all over his arms and torso.
  • Oskar and his mother have a loud verbal argument. It ends with Oskar saying he wished his mother had died instead of his father.

Content that may disturb children

Under 8

In addition to the violent scenes mentioned above, this movie has some scenes that could scare or disturb children under eight years. For example:

  • Oskar spends a lot of time hiding in small spaces, such as the cupboard on top of the wardrobe and under tables.
  • Oskar stands in the middle of a busy road with trucks passing all around him.
  • Oskar finds a picture of a man falling from the World Trade Center’s twin towers. He magnifies the picture on his computer and is convinced it’s his father. He makes a montage of the twin towers with a wheel that shows a man in various stages of falling to his death.
  • On the day of the September 11 attack, Thomas Schell phones home several times to tell his family that he’s OK and that he loves them. He leaves messages on the answering machine, which Oskar listens to over and over again. Oskar hides the messages from his mother. 

From 8-13

Children in this age group are also likely to be disturbed by some of the scenes mentioned above, particularly those from the attack on the World Trade Center.

Over 13

Younger children in this age group might also be disturbed by some of the scenes mentioned above. 

Sexual references

Oskar meets a transvestite as he travels around New York. Some children might find this confusing. 

Alcohol, drugs and other substances

This movie shows characters drinking alcohol at home and in a bar. 

Nudity and sexual activity

None of concern 

Product placement

The following products are displayed or used in this movie: Fruit Box and Cheerios. 

Coarse language

This movie has some coarse language. 

Ideas to discuss with your children

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is an emotionally charged drama about the loss of a parent in the September 11 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York. This makes the movie unsuitable for children under 13 years, as does the fact that the central character is a boy who has either Asperger’s disorder or autism. The movie is suited to a more mature audience.

The main messages from this movie are to value and accept people for their individual talents and positive abilities rather than focusing on their negatives. It’s also about accepting that the answers we look for aren’t always the ones we want.

Values that you could reinforce with your children include respect, acceptance and tolerance for other people.

This movie could also give you the chance to talk with your children about real-life issues such as:

  • why Oskar feels he has to lie to his mother
  • how it could be dangerous for a young boy to wander city streets and knock on the doors of strangers.