When Stephen Daldry's drama about a young boy trying to come to terms with the loss of his father was first released, the critics savaged it. Those that gave it more than one star damned it as "Oscar bait" and, indeed, Max von Sydow's non-speaking performance was, bizarrely, nominated for an Academy Award.
Very few people, however, took the time to look closely at the central performance by young Thomas Horn, who manages to carry the whole film despite never having acted before. Less charitable viewers have described his character as annoying, with too many irritating quirks; I disagree. Having some experience of being in the presence of children with autism, I recognised some of the classic traits in the character of Oskar - a precociously bright, single-minded child who finds it difficult to relate to others and who needs the world around him to make sense. In the script, Oskar even mentions that he'd had tests for Asperger's syndrome but that the results were "inconclusive".
There is a fairly thick layer of schmaltz overlaying the film and Sandra Bullock, playing Oskar's mother is criminally underused, but this is a film that draws you into its - or more precisely Oskar's - world so fully that you're compelled to watch it to its conclusion.
It most definitely isn't a film for everyone, but if you think it might be your type of film, it's worth a few quid just to marvel at the central performance. There is a section in the middle that slows the film down, and that's the reason I can't stretch to a four-star rating, but it's most definitely a solid three-and-a-bit.