Gravity written and directed by Alfonso Cuarón (Warner Bros., Esperanto Filmoj, Heyday Films, R, 90 min)
Starring Sandra Bullock, George Clooney, Ed Harris
After the movie, my friend and I walked to the pub across the street to grab a beer and try to figure out what the hell had just happened to us. “It’s about freefall,” my friend said finally, after his beer had calmed him down. “It’s about when you’re hurtling towards a collision, and you can see the crash coming, and you’re scrambling, scrabbling for a handhold – anything, anyone – to keep you from plummeting into the abyss.” He shuddered and raised his hand for another round.
Space and Disaster
Some context: Gravity is, in part, a space movie. Sandra Bullock and George Clooney are astronauts conducting an orbiting repair of the Hubble Space Telescope. He is the veteran, smooth and charming, as at ease in space as he is, presumably, on Earth. She is the rookie, a former surgeon, nervous and out of her element. One wonders, however, exactly what her element is, because it’s hard to imagine her at ease anywhere outside of the cold sterility of the operating room. She is adrift, having turned her back on Earth, seeking solace in a dark and lifeless void.
But Gravity is also a disaster movie, and when disaster strikes, it arrives with swift and merciless fury. Their lifelines destroyed, Bullock and Clooney set out across the vastness in search of a way home, the Earth looming gorgeously in the background, tantalizingly close and yet achingly out of reach. In this sense, Gravity is standard disaster movie fare in the same vein as The Poseidon Adventure or The Day After Tomorrow. The duo move from narrow escape to narrow escape, and then the duet becomes a solo, and the movie gets much, much more interesting.
A Simple Story
For if this is a story of freefall, it’s the story of one woman’s freefall, the story of her long journey into her own, personal abyss. We watch her careening from one temporary safe haven to another, grasping in terror for anything to help arrest her fall. I lost count of the number of times that her hands, outstretched, slip across unforgiving surfaces, fingers searching desperately for the tiniest crack, the slenderest shred of hope against a world that is unceasingly, inexorably pulling her down towards destruction.
But grab hold she does, and the movie transitions from a story about staving off disaster to a story about pursuing life. Holding on, grabbing hold, clinging fast – whatever metaphor you choose, Gravity is ultimately less about keeping yourself from falling and more about having something to fall towards. And, in the movie’s final scene, our heroine, who literally emerges from the depths, baptized and renewed, grabs hold one last time, only this time, she’s found something worth holding onto.
For all its cutting-edge special effects and technical marvels (and it is marvelous, make no mistake), Gravity is a simple story of loss and grief and redemption, of having everything you love slip through your fingers and finding the strength and will to carry on. My friend is right: it is a story of freefall. But, more importantly, it’s a story freefall turning into flight, of how the very forces that draw us towards our destruction are the same forces that allow us to stand firm, feet on the ground, back straight, eyes towards the horizon. And Earth, which you’d fled, which has held nothing but pain, is now the only place you want to be.
Verdict: 5 out of 5
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Dr. Jeremy Delamarter holds an Ed.D from the Seattle Pacific University, and is an Assistant Professor of Education at Northwest University. Proior to his appointment to faculty at Northwest University, he taught high school English in the Seattle area. His love of literature has informed his scholarship, and his early research has focused on the canon formation processes of Christian secondary schools.
His current research focuses on the support structures that schools of education and small school districts provide for pre-service and first year teachers. He is currently working with universities around the country and across the globe to better understand how to improve teacher education and early career mentoring.
Dr. Delamarter has three children, considers himself a fairly good cook, is a bit of an overzealous sci-fi geek, and is hesitantly and fearfully training for a marathon sometime in the future.