On Arrival and the Present Human Condition

I've never in my life seen a movie in the theatre twice in two weeks. Until now. I saw Arrival alone, as my wife is not into science fiction that much. But after I saw it, I knew she had to see it, so then I took her. I understood even more seeing it again, as it is a very cerebral movie and it's easy to miss things the first time.

From the initial strains of the haunting theme music, to the end of that same theme at the close of the film, one traverses a strange and yet familiar landscape. The land, the people, how we act as humans, is all familiar. The aliens, their language, and what the movie does to our concept of time, are all completely strange. Even given all of this, this is the first alien movie I've seen where the movie isn't about the aliens, but us.

It turns out that the aliens need us. They need us so badly that they are willing to put up with our bullshit long enough to save us from ourselves. Now that's a plot I can get behind, especially today.

To say that this movie arrives (see what I did there?) at an interesting time is an understatement. I doubt the world (not just the US) has ever been more divided in modern times. The "Brexit" vote pitted the UK elites against the "common man" and the common man won. In the US, the same happened over the election of Donald Trump. Those who didn't vote for him were often appalled at his racist, xenophobic, and misogynist remarks. But it is where we are now.

We are like Louise Banks of the movie, who is forced to live through hell to experience the love she can't give up. We must live through the next four years, as there is no other choice if we want to continue to live and love. I suggest we find all of the love we can. We are going to need every bit of it.

August 2018 Postscript: As I've thought about this more, what I continue to come back to is the decision that Louise Banks in the movie makes. She knows that her daughter will die young, before she even conceives. And yet she makes the decision to break her own heart, to give her daughter the gift of what life she can experience before the inevitable happens. She makes the decision to break her own heart, for someone else, and to give her the best life that she can while she can. This is what I continue to come back to. Forget the aliens, this movie was never about them. It's always and forever about us. It's about what we are willing to do for our loved ones, when it comes down to it. May we never forget what this says about us, and what we are capable of, when pressed.

Amy Adams, as Louise Banks, being amazed by the aliens.