Secrets, hidden truths and questions underline this tale of grief and obsession from Stephen Daldry, in which the son of a man killed on September 11 embarks on an odyssey across New York City.
Oskar Schell hero-worshipped his father, Thomas, a passionate devotee of games and clues who would set the boy challenges to broaden his knowledge of the world. Given that Oskar suffers from an Aspergers-type condition it is good old dad who steers him on a course through life. When Thomas (Tom Hanks) is suddenly snatched away in the attack on the Twin Towers it takes Oskar (Thomas Horn) a year to begin to attempt to come to terms with his loss.
In going through clothes in his father’s closet he discovers a mysterious key. Seeking a new mission that will take him back to the happy times he spent with dad, he resolves to find the lock it fits.
Adapted by Eric Roth from the novel by Jonathan Safran Foer, this is one of the most moving films you will see this year and arguably one of the most frustrating, as it attempts to make sense of the senseless. Oskar has buried away the answer machine that contains his father’s final words; not even his mother (Sandra Bullock) has heard the six messages it contains.
The film is about a sense of family and community but is undermined by failing to draw together its various threads. The final reel, in which ambiguous aspects and familial roles are revealed, hints at how much remains unexplained in the story.