Arrival written by Eric Heisserer, directed by Denis Villeneuve (21 Laps Entertainment, FilmNation Entertainment, Lava Bear Films, PG-13, 116 min)
Starring Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker, and Michael Stuhlbarg.
On Love and Loss
Better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all.
We speak this platitude in times of grief as a way of consolation for the saddest of these. In times long past (or auld lang syne given the holiday season), we may find some truth in these words. In retrospect, difficult times can help form us into the strong and bold individuals with a rich inner life.
But surely, we never choose suffering. Nevertheless, it’s a product of our experience, the equal and opposite of joy that helps us better understand and appreciate eudaimonia, the good times.
In his stunning new feature, Denis Villeneuve places grief at the center of a sci-fi thriller.
Beginning at the Beginning
Arrival begins with an arrival. 12 unidentified flying objects take residence across the world. These monstrous orbs have no discernible purpose but their sudden appearance cause major disruption across the world.
This arrival appears through the lens of our protagonist Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams). An academic and a renowned linguist, the army approaches Dr. Banks to lead a team charged with translating the sounds occurring from first contact with an alien species.
Partnering with Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner), a scientist, the team departs for the alien craft located in Montana to attempt contact with these strange visitors.
As the film unfolds, the viewer sees glimpses into Louise’s life, namely the loss of the child that operates as a driving factor in her work as well as a constant reminder of her loss. This grief motivates Louise in an inspiring way.
A Character Study
While Arrival leverages stunning visuals to situate the story in the standard science fiction canon, the focus on grief as a motivator keeps the film in a tight character study even with its more fantastical elements.
Many who see this film will want to discuss the narrative twist in act 3, but for me, the quality of the story doesn’t emerge in any of its tricks, but in its emotional punch.
Grief is a shared human emotion. No matter our circumstances, not matter our political or national tribe, we all experience loss. In those shared experiences, we have the opportunity to build bridges of empathy with others. Go hug someone that matters to you. We will all need it at some point in our lives.
Verdict: 4.5 out of 5