Lessons learnt from the movie Arrival

Lessons learnt from the movie Arrival

I had just finished watching Arrival yesterday, of course, borrowing it from the National Library. If you were expecting a action packed movie, (think Battle for Los Angeles), you would be disappointed. The plot reads more like a deep literature piece that examines human behaviour, human motivations and poses questions to the viewer for a more indepth reflection.

There are no right or wrong answers. The answer depends on the individual that is faced with the question.

The main plot of the story revolves around a linguistic expert who is called to translate the intentions of aliens who have visited Earth. She is paired up with a physics expert and they visit the alien craft, making contact and trying to understand their language. She uses a signboard to write alphabets while demonstrating the actions associated with the words, in an attempt to make the aliens understand the English language.

The aliens responds in kind. Albeit, using their language, which are circular symbols which variations in them. In the later part of the film, the main character then realises that the aliens have come to offer their gift (which was initially misunderstood as a weapon) to the human race because they would need help from the human race 3000 years later.

The protagonist explains that the alien language have no beginning and no end, unlike the English language, which is read from left to right, from top to bottom. In contract, the alien language shows the meaning of what they are going to say in a pictorial form, where all the information is portrayed in that one image.

In understand the alien’s language, the protagonist also realises that she has gained the alien’s ability to see time in a non-linear perspective. She can foresee the future, her own future. Through “flash-forwards”, she learns that her future self is married to the physics expert and they have a daughter together. The father however, leaves while the child is still a child but the main character explains to her daughter that its her fault that the father has left. Further flash forwards shows the daughter passing away due to cancer in her teenage years. It is later implied that the father has left because he is angry that the main character has gone ahead with the relationship and gave birth to the daughter, knowing full well of the outcome.

After watching the movie, the reflection of the main theme of the movie is the question of personal choice – of whether you, if given a glimpse to your future, will change anything to affect the outcome. Or would you go through it, living all the experiences that come with it and ultimately fulfilling your fate and destiny?

The Verge website ends the review of the movie with a thought provoking motion – “It’s about acceptance, understanding our life’s choices, and living as if any one moment were as valuable or meaningful as the next.”

Are you living your life to the fullest everyday? Being present, being mindful, being here in the moment, absorbing life’s each little nuances, its high ups and its low downs? Most of the time, when an undesired outcome or event occurs in our lives, we sometimes wish that we can go back in time to change things. Would this be the best way to protect ourselves, by choosing ignorance and avoidance of the problem?

If we had a child and we wanted to protect him or her, would it be a good idea to put him or her in a sealed chamber, never letting him out to the “bad” world, never letting him interact with anyone else. All the information presented to him will be curated and controlled. His food and environment all controlled. What do you think this kind of arrangement would do to the child?

Life’s greatest lessons are learnt, more times then not, when we fail and fall flat on our face. Learning to push through and accepting the issues allows you to grow as a person. Its like a broken bone. The body heals the fracture by rebuilding it to be even thicker and stronger. The entire human body works the same way. Muscles are constantly torn and rebuild so we can stronger. Cells are constantly replaced so we “renew” our body.

Embracing life’s challenges, no matter how hard or difficult, is nature’s way to let us grow. And the best part is, we don’t have to be alone in this.


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