I can’t stop thinking about Arrival.

The most unrealistic part of the movie is that, in it, the United States elected a woman as president.

The next most unrealistic part of the movie is that aliens would come to Earth in hopes of having any meaningful dialogue with the human species right now.

The film was made months before a bigot oligarch was elected on the anxieties of white people to run arguably the most powerful country in the world, but I can’t help but think it speaks more to the present day than to when the movie was produced. How fitting for a story about time.


Arrival is about strange alien crafts coming to contemporary Earth and one of the human teams that tries to decode their purpose. This is all the synopsis you need going in, and the more wonder and surprise you can preserve, the better. Its three big roles (Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, and Forest Whitaker) are all great, and the supporting roles are given admirable nuance so, for example, the CIA guy has completely understandable motivations for being a snide jackass. The direction (by Denis Villeneuve, who made the awesome creeper Enemy), cinematography, editing, sound design, and score are superb. (I’m listening to the original soundtrack, by Jóhan Jóhannson, as I write this, and it’s remarkably how well it tracks the mood of the film, from eerie to anxious to loving.) There are a couple of really corny lines, but I’ll gladly take them in exchange for a movie that inspires so much hope for life and for humanity.

Now more than ever we need movies like this: movies that celebrate knowledge and learning and curiosity (as embodied by the linguist and physicist heroes at its centre); movies that don’t demonize “militants” (the euphemism of this year for “white terrorists”) but nevertheless show that fear, anger, and violence toward the unknown/different is immensely foolish and dangerous; movies that suggest, despite the recent overwhelming evidence to the contrary, that humans can be good to one another, can unify, can act in a spirit of cooperation and respect to achieve common goals; movies that remind us that life is full of heartbreak and loss but ultimately fuller with love, compassion, and bonds.

I needed a reminder like this. The world (the universe!) is big and scary, life is often hard, but we can be good to one another. We may fight but more so we are built to take care of each other. Life is fleeting but full of beautiful, meaningful moments. Maybe you need a reminder like this, too.

Please go see Arrival.