Looking to Unlock

Oskar shared a beautiful,for lack of a more evocative word,relationship with his dad Thomas (Hanks).

Written by Shalini Langer | Published: March 3, 2012 12:24 am


Director: Stephen Daldry

Cast: Thomas Horn,Tom Hanks,Sandra Bullock,Max Von Sydow

Rating: ***

There can be few things more horrific than an 11-year-old losing his father to an attack as senseless as 9/11,dreaming repeatedly of a man falling off the Twin Towers,and listening intermittently to the last messages his dad left on the answering machine for him.

Not if this film is to be believed. Director Stephen Daldry (The Hours,Reader) doesn’t stop till he has squeezed the last tear out of this story based on a novel by the same name by Jonathan Safran Foer. “The worst day,” as the 11-year-old Oskar calls it,is replayed again and again,his and the audience’s emotions played with,when less would have been more.

Oskar shared a beautiful,for lack of a more evocative word,relationship with his dad Thomas (Hanks). Their favourite game together had been “reconnaissance exercise” in which he would leave clues for Oskar to find. So when Oskar finds a key in a vase in his father’s closet one year after his death — he didn’t dare go in earlier — he is convinced it will open a lock where he will find something Thomas has left for him.

The envelope in which the key was kept had “Black” written on it and Oskar narrows down to a list of 400-odd names in New York he must find. What follows is Forrest Gumpy (also written by the same screenwriter,Eric Roth),as Oskar,armed with a tambourine,finds friendly,loving people who open their homes to him and whose photos he captures and stores. Helped by a mysterious “Renter (Sydow)” in his grandmother’s apartment,he also overcomes the fears he has acquired of all public,crowded places,tall places,loud places,since 9/11.

Emotionally cloying,the film’s characters only open their mouths to say something profound,from “keys always opening something” to “people being like letters,not numbers”. When a film starts talking so much,you start wondering how much it actually has to say.

It is Thomas Horn as Oskar that the film does most injustice to. The boy who may have a mild Asperger’s,who reads A Brief History of Time as bedtime story,who seems to look through everything with his bright,big eyes,rises above all to still be a child when the film is pushing him to be an inordinate grown-up. “You can’t make sense of any of it,” his teary-eyed mother (played by an unjustifiably ignored Bullock) tells Oskar about 9/11.

You can’t help thinking that Horn,striding confidently in the uncertain but knowing zone his character lives in,has figured that out all by himself.

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