It’s most likely not what you think it is. If you like Sc-Fi, watch it. If you don’t like Sci-Fi and are traditionally put off by it, watch it.
Non-specific spoilers ahead, but spoilers nonetheless. You’ve been warned.
We’ve probably all explored the overall theme at one time or another… if you could watch your life from start to finish.. would you change anything? More specifically… Would you give up your greatest joys to save yourself from your greatest pain? This is the question posed by Arrival. This isn’t the first film to explore this theme, but it’s done in such a unique way. Admittedly I cried for the last full five minutes of the film at least.
BIGGEST SPOILER BELOW:
When the reveal was made that the presumably flashback segments were actually flash forward segments.. revealing not the past but the future… whaaaat. The twist didn’t feel contrived or too manipulated. And it tapped into the greater human emotion of love and loss, how we deal with the things we have no choice in, and how we would choose to deal with those monumental things if we were presented with the choice. Louise (Amy Adams) says yes. She chooses her life with her closing line of “yes”. And we know the pain she is in for, she knows it, too. But we also know the tremendous amount of collective joy ahead of her. Because of that it is inspiring. Her life is not happening to her. She is walking into it full on saying yes. She is making the conscious choice. This is not typical sci-fi alien first encounter fare, and now I understand why it is enjoying eight Oscar nominations, (none for Amy Adams, though personally I think she was deserving). When you strip us all down, we each experience immense joy and immense pain as we journey through life. Sometimes it feels out of our control, and that’s frustrating. It’s a shared human condition. The prevalent theme here, bigger than monsters or aliens or our seeming willingness to destroy under the illusion of self preservation- in the end, how many of us would trade all of our most incredible joys in order to not have to feel the incredible sorrow? Probably not many. I hope not many.