Wednesday, 2 August 2017


Arrival has a lot to recommend it. The visuals are spectacular, the soundtrack is amazing, the direction, cinematography and acting are all top-notch. I particularly like they way the director didn’t get bogged down in long set-pieces, but short-cut sequences that would have been tempting to draw out. The premise is that the structure of a language affects the way you think and that the language of the aliens allows you to see the future (and presumably the past). This is at best quite a stretch and seems a bit silly afterwards, but the movie sells it quite well at time of watching. However this is all just a plot device giving the protagonist visions revolving around the life and early death of her child.
They key to Arrival is realising that the movie is not about aliens, it’s not about linguistics, it’s not really about time travel. The question at the heart of the movie is: if you knew your future, how would you live your life? Obviously at this point you have to ignore the logical inconsistencies and paradox of changing a future you have seen, this is not the point here. Specifically, in Arrival the question is: if you knew your child would die a slow death at a young age would you choose to have the child?
In this case the mother knows that the child’s condition before the child is even conceived, and importantly she has seen the child’s life and spoken to her so is the best place possible to make the decision. The fact that the chooses to go down that road (a road she knows will be as difficult as one can imagine) because the grief, sorrow and hardship are worth the life (albeit short one) that the child has and also the joy that she brings, is a decision made with the certainty we will never have.
My difficulty with this comes in the form of the father. The future shows (and so the mother knows) that the father will say that he should have been told about the certain illness before they conceived the child. She also knows that he will leave her and the child as a result of her telling him about her prior knowledge.
So the mother does not disclose the future to the father knowing that he would not consent if she made him aware of the consequences. She then tells him about her knowledge knowing that this will drive him away from the child. It seems that she has manipulated him into having a child he would have not chosen to have and then manipulated into leaving them both.
The alternation of the action between the exciting present and the bitter-sweet future is a real strength, changing the pace, mood and colour (literally) of the movie. But it all seems like a very long way to hide a story about the ups and downs of life to the point where you don’t really have time to consider what is happening until the end. The desire for a 6th Sense style plot twist overrides the consideration of the central question. Finally astonishingly selfish acts of the mother in relation to the father indelibly stains her character. The father is very much a bit-part in the movie, I’m not sure if he is simply supposed to be an obstacle for the protagonist to overcome, another heartache on the road, but he seems to simply be a means to an end for the protagonist. This soured the end of the movie leading me to wonder what, if anything, the movie had to say.

2/5 - Ok

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