an ARRIVAL musing - second thoughts
I didn't write anything about this the first time I saw this back in November when it was first released. Here's a bunch of thoughts on ARRIVAL!
P.S. SPOILERS. Lots of them.
Communication and humanity are huge parts of ARRIVAL, and it's really emphasized how much working together can really help the world. When those video lines between countries are cut, panic starts to spread and progress ceases. This movie really sets out to establish that message, and show that communication and intelligent decisions can consistently outweigh a hierarchical system.
ARRIVAL accomplishes this with sweeping, beautiful cinematography, great direction and acting. I'm so excited to see Denis Villenueve's upcoming movies, as well as the cinematographer, Bradford Young, who will be shooting the HAN SOLO movie.
Seeing ARRIVAL for a second time allowed me to really see the happenings with different eyes. The theme music kicked in as the camera pans down from black to the living room of Louise's house, and I was already filled with emotion. The music just evoked so many memories of the first time I saw it, and the gut punch of the twist. It's fascinating knowing that the first few scenes with Louise's daughter are actually the future, and seeing that Amy Adams is playing those two timelines so differently. The director, Denis Villeneuve, does an incredible job of holding that twist and playing on the expectations of the audience. We see the opening as events that have already happened, with Louise having gone through her daughter's death, just like in the first heartbreaking five minutes of UP. The future is revisited more and more through these flashforwards as Louise continues to communicate with the aliens and learns more of their language, which transcends time itself. The real tragic scene is when Louise and we as the audience learns the nature of the flashbacks. A great twist/reveal is one where it recontextualizes the whole movie, and this one was well set up and emotionally affecting. The climax was supposed to be where Louise looks into the future to find out what she has to tell the Chinese leader in order to stop him attacking the aliens in the present (which sounds absolutely insane and extremely sci-fi-y when typed out like that), but the more effective emotional climax was Louise's talk with her daughter by the river/lake/body of water. Just everything about that scene, the dialogue, the acting and cinematography captures humanity and reflects realistic conversations with a child and parent that wants to hide the harsh truths of the world from their child.
One of my favorite interactions in ARRIVAL was towards the end, when Louise asks Ian "If you could see your whole life from start to finish, would you change things?" and he replies, "Maybe I would say what I felt more often." It's a beautiful, truthful reply and comes from a pragmatic scientific character, and reflects how I want to live my life, too. And then we see Louise, going through all the events of the future that she's seen, all the happy, all the sad, and decides to go through with all of it, even though she knows Ian will leave, and her daughter will die. It's heartbreaking and bittersweet, but that's life, and you gotta live for the good in your life, no matter how fleeting those moments may be.