Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

ANNIE RAFF wishes we could ditch all the tears and the fluffiness and just tell a proper story.

9/11 annie raff child actors extremely loud and incredibly close Fathers Film grief Jonathan Safran Foer review Sandra Bullock stephen daldry tom hanks

Directed by Stephen Daldry.

[rating: 2/5]

When Sandra Bullock is the best thing about a film, you know it’s not up to much. Extremely Loud follows 9-year-old Oscar (Thomas Horn) who loses his father (Tom Hanks) on 9/11. If that didn’t mean it was already risking cliché, then the script, with such gems as, ‘I can’t make the impossible, possible’, makes sure of it.

There are moments of genius in Extremely Loud. It deals superbly with the loss of a loved one and there are some great insights into the child’s mind (the story is narrated by Horn). But these moments are fleeting, and the rest of the 129 minutes are filled with convoluted storylines and ridiculous coincidences.

The main storyline revolves around Oscar discovering a key in his father’s cupboard, and deciding to go on a mission to find the lock that matches the key, leading him on a journey of discovery blah blah blah.

It’s all very metaphorical and meaningful: most of the characters in the film cry at some point. In a way, you get the impression that the director wants this to rub off on the audience. But it is so mushy, so utterly and obviously trying, that it inevitably fails to evoke anywhere near the emotional reaction it wants to.

Yet another immature film tries to piggyback on Tom Hanks.

Extremely Loud would have worked either as a film about the love between father and son and the effects of the father’s absence, or as a journey in to a child’s mind. It tries to do both and fails spectacularly in the process.

The script was adapted from the novel by Jonathan Safran Foer and for this reason there might have been some caution on the part of the director (Stephen Daldry, of Billy Elliot and The Reader fame) not to stray too far from the original.

But there are certain aspects of the film, such as the boy’s narration, which might have worked well in novel form but do not translate to cinema. It is hard not to get frustrated with the pretentiousness of this young boy, whose voice I would be glad never to hear again.

Of course, this frustration may have been a device on the part of the director to mirror a young person’s mind with all its imaginings and exaggerations. But whilst this worked in, say, Submarine, it certainly didn’t here.

It’s a shame that Extremely Loud missed the mark. As I say, there were moments in which you could see what a great film it could have been. But it let itself down by thinking it needed all the fluffiness. What it needed was to be brave and just tell a story.