Understanding “Arrival”

Posted on November 26, 2016 at 8:00 am

Still trying to figure out “Arrival?” These might help:

In the Washington Post, Michael O’Sullivan explains more about what a linguist does, with some comments from the woman who helped to inspire the character played by Amy Adams, Jessica Coon.

Linguists, Coons explains, aren’t so much glorified translators as they are theoreticians, more interested in the why of humankind’s natural affinity for language acquisition, when other species aren’t hard-wired for it.

In Entertainment Weekly, Darren Franich is one of the few people writing about the film to dismiss its aspirations of profundity.

There’s a phony core to Arrival, though, which emerges gradually and then suddenly. The film opens with the birth, life, and death of Banks’ daughter. The devastation of her loss haunts the film; mother-daughter scenes play through the movie. It seems like a character note, a clever bit of arc-setting: Banks, grieving the loss of her child, must now midwife our communication with an entirely new species. Perhaps you would say: Having cut herself off from humanity, she must now connect humanity to the stars. Or maybe not everything is plot-essential; maybe this is a movie daring enough to suggest that the characters have a life outside of the constraints of the movie.

But Arrival, turns out, is entirely a Plot Movie. Every character trait and hanging line of dialogue is hermetically sealed into the architecture of what amounts to a Big Twist. As Banks learns the aliens’ language, her consciousness comes unstuck in time. The daughter we’ve been seeing hasn’t even been born yet.

Related Tags:


Understanding Media and Pop Culture
THE MOVIE MOM® is a registered trademark of Nell Minow. Use of the mark without express consent from Nell Minow constitutes trademark infringement and unfair competition in violation of federal and state laws. All material © Nell Minow 1995-2024, all rights reserved, and no use or republication is permitted without explicit permission. This site hosts Nell Minow’s Movie Mom® archive, with material that originally appeared on Yahoo! Movies, Beliefnet, and other sources. Much of her new material can be found at Rogerebert.com, Huffington Post, and WheretoWatch. Her books include The Movie Mom’s Guide to Family Movies and 101 Must-See Movie Moments, and she can be heard each week on radio stations across the country.

Website Designed by Max LaZebnik