Hope is like a swing that pulls us upward.
At least, that’s what the movie Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close would have us to believe.
Oskar Schell is a nine-year-old boy who lost his father and his way in the events of 9/11 or as he refers to it, the worst day. He has some form of autism (he reveals during the movie that he was tested for Asperger’s Syndrome but the results were inconclusive). Then too, he’s dealing with his own form of survivor’s guilt—he was at home when his father made his final call and yet he was unable to bring himself to answer the phone. As a result, he pinches himself to the point of bruising until his torso is covered with marks. And if all of that isn’t enough, Oskar has a very interesting and unique pair of paternal grandparents who have their own stories and issues as well.
In an attempt to stay connected to his father and somehow resolve his guilt, Oskar goes on a quest but it doesn’t conclude in the manner he had anticipated. When his search dead ends at the office of a man named William Black, in desperation Oskar tells him what he has been unable to tell anyone—about his failure to answer his father’s final phone call. Then he asks him:
Do you forgive me?
Forgive you? For what? For not being able to pick up?
For not being able to tell anyone.
Ohh . . . of course I forgive you (reaching out to touch Oskar’s head).
I can’t tell you how much better that makes me feel.
Forgiveness brings hope and that brings us to the swing. His father had told Oskar about the third swing from the right—the one he used to swing on as a kid. It was his favorite because he was convinced it would take him the highest. “You should give it a whirl, Oskar. It might change the way you look at things.” Oskar is afraid. “It’s not safe,” he tells his father. But there we find him at the movie’s end. As his mother is working her way through Oskar’s scrapbook of his quest (called Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close), Oskar is on the third swing from the right at Central Park. His mom reaches the end of the book where there is a picture of the World Trade Center with a manipulative that when pulled shows a man representing his father falling upwards and back into the building. This is juxtaposed with Oskar pumping hard and swinging high (upward). Oskar has hope and it pulls him upward—the spirit of his father lives on in him.
That’s our story as well. Hope not only comes as a result of forgiveness and pulls up upwards—it’s what happens when the spirit of our Father lives in us.