116 Minutes
Released November 11th

Before you sit down in the theatre to watch Arrival, loosen the restraints on your brain. Free your tendency to observe new concepts from a preconceived order of your world. This is a gorgeous film about communication that transcends language. It is a great piece of film literature and a philosophical commentary on our time that we need to comprehend on a deep level if we are to survive as a species. In fact to appreciate this film you must surrender your mind to thinking outside of the constrictions of your native language.

The movie is based on a short story called “The Story of Your Life”, by Ted Chiang, who is a technical writer in his “day job”. Chiang’s work is a favorite of science fiction aficionados. In this story Chiang was able to apply both scientific and creative philosophical thinking. The narrative is an elegantly simple weaving together of two stories in different time planes, which seem to be disparate in the beginning, yet impact on one another profoundly, similar to the way in which seemingly unconnected events in your own life can affect each other.

Canadian director Denis Villeneuve had planned to study science at the Universite de Quebec a Montreal. He switched to filmmaking early on – however his tendency towards scientific and philosophical thought pervades this film. He has created a beautiful balance here in presenting the plot in a simple way, letting the concepts surrounding the dilemma that is established take center stage. As proven in his films Sicario and Prisoner, Villeneuve has a surprising ability to inhabit a female central character with a sense of wonder, fear and awe when confronted with a situation outside of mortal control. Here Amy Adams embodies that character with perfection. Forest Whitaker, Jeremy Renner, Michael Stuhlbarg, Mark O’Brien and Tzi Ma create understated and real characters. Some key players in this film are never or rarely seen. However their presence is pervasive. As you watch, your sense of time and love will be reorganized.

Villeneuve has brought together several artists who have worked with him in the past. This seems to be a great advantage in this movie, as trust has already been built. The simplicity that is achieved in the sound track by Johann Johannsson, cinematography by Bradford Young and editing by Joe Walker builds a dramatic backdrop that showcases our primal fears as human beings without distracting from the concepts that are presented.

There has been a vast amount of thought, analysis and conjecture about the role of language in shaping the way we perceive our lives. Do humans shape their ideas of reality differently because of the nature of their language? Was each language family born separately of universal and instinctive sounds and visual notes? Did different language families develop separately, each with their own unique characteristics of sound and patterns? Did these patterns spread to other languages of the same family? How deeply do humans communicate with animals? The revelations at the end of the movie force you to consider some huge issues. In Arrival you will see that the medium of film itself is in fact a most powerful and universal language.

Kathryn Whitney Boole has spent most of her life in the entertainment industry, which is the backdrop for remarkable adventures with extraordinary people. She is a Talent Manager with Studio Talent Group in Santa Monica. kboole@gmail.com. For previously published reviews see https://kwboole.wordpress.com