Oskar Schell is the nine year old son of Linda Schell and the late Thomas Schell, a victim of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks at the World Trade Center. In flashbacks, the viewer learns that Thomas, aware that his son is extremely intelligent, would send Oskar on scouting missions to find what the father described as the long, lost sixth borough of New York City.
On 9/11, Oskar is released from school early and returns home to an empty apartment; his mother is still at work and a check of the family's answering machine notes that Thomas has left five messages in full, giving updates to his whereabouts within the World Trade Center. Thomas calls for a sixth time, but young Oskar is too scared to answer the phone. A sixth answering machine message from Thomas is cut short as the World Trade Center tower Thomas is in collapses. Oskar, knowing that he had just heard his father die, replaces the answering machine and hides the old one so that his mother will never learn what happened.
After Thomas's death, Oskar grows closer to his grandmother but more distant from his mother who struggles to understand what happened on what Oskar calls "the worst day."
On the year anniversary of the terror attacks, Oskar finds a vase in his father's closet. The vase contained an envelope that held a key with the name "Black" on it. Oskar sets off on a mission to learn more about the key. He researches to find every person named Black in New York City and begins visiting them one by one.
Meanwhile, Oskar is surprised when a mysterious man has moved in with his grandmother. The man does not speak and communicates in a series of notes. Over time, Oskar and this man form a friendship and he begins traveling with Oskar to find the owner of the key. Over time, Oskar learns the identity of the stranger.
When Oskar finds the owner of the key, he is somewhat disappointed to learn that the key was accidentally left in the vase and there was no huge uniqueness to it and no ties at all to his father. He confesses to the key's owner that he did not pick up the phone when his father called for the final time.
Once home, Oskar learns that his mother has known all along that he has been contacting the families with the surname of Black and he begins to find a greater purpose for healing from the incredible loss he has faced.
Best part of story, including ending:
This was a very difficult movie to watch. The emotion was very real and raw as if 9/11 was happening again. I relived every personal memory of where I was and what I was doing on that day during the film. I was glad that Oskar made peace with his father's death and found a way to use his creative mind for a purpose.
Best scene in story:
My favorite scene is when Oskar explains that if the sun were to explode, it would take 8 minutes before anyone on earth knew and therefore, everyone on earth would live normally with sun before the news would hit us.
Opinion about the main character:
Oskar's character could be somewhat of a brat at times, but this could be due to his grief. I enjoyed the fact that from tragedy, he was able to share his adventures and create a memory that hopefully allowed him to heal.