There has been a massive amount of controversy surrounding the release of this reasonably small picture, specifically in regard to its so called ‘over-sentimentalising’ of real-world events. The film tells the story of a young, possibly autistic boy, Oskar Schell, who’s father was in the World Trade Centre on the eleventh of September and his subsequent quest to come to terms with that loss by locating the lock to match a mysterious key. Many people found the films use of that terrible, tragic day to be exploitative and shocking well before they had ever set eyes on the execution in the final product; what I find shocking is that in these arguments the term ‘sentiment’ is being thrown around as a criticism and not a compliment.
Cinema, as a pure idea, is an exercise in semiotics with the intention of evoking emotion; a symbol splashes up on the screen and we scry meaning from it, the most potent of which mean something to us on a visceral level, we feel them as much as we see them. If with a simple play of light a director can make you cheer, cackle or even cry then they have achieved not only their intention, but something amazing. Sentiment then is surely the aim of the game, therefore if Extremely Loud is overly sentimental then it should be judged as a success; I mean you never hear of anyone accusing, say, the Giants of scoring too many points in the Superbowl (Topical!). Anything else is just jealousy then right? Or a bunch of cold, clinical critics too afraid to let anyone know that they cried? Well not necessarily.