Arrival‘s non-linear structure weaves in and out like memory, stitching together pieces of a puzzle. The question, answer, and method is in front of you the whole time, and on re-watch, it’s even more apparent how immensely brave the editing is. Like Louise, you live the film not just in a timeline, but all around it. Experiencing the beginning, middle and end without knowing so until the words “who’s the child?” are whispered and change everything. It’s inspiring to think something so bold and high concept can be kept on our level by bringing it to ground with a human story of living with and through pain, even when you have the choice not to – the acceptance of fleeting love outweighing the inevitable loss of it.
“If you could see your life from start to finish, would you change anything?”
The production’s overall quality is sublime, but the sound design is especially heavenly accompanied by the obscure score. Every creak and bang on the mind-bending ship adds gravity. Its tension and eventual potency is inviting but nerve-wracking, creating a claustrophobic and unforgettable first act. The noise of the film eventually transitions into evocative music such as The Nature of Daylight, which is used at the very start and very end, introducing Louise’s new notions of time in its never-ending loop before we know what’s coming. There’s something ironic in re-watching Arrival; you’re essentially gaining Louise’s ability to know what’s to come. But you live it again, to experience every click, tone, and bend. You make the same choice she does. Isn’t that beautiful?
Amy Adams gives such a subtle, masterful performance. So quiet and internal that it doesn’t shock me the Academy didn’t nominate it. Something that delicate sinks so underneath the skin it’s hard to register as a performance at all. Adams is a special performer, and Louise has a grounded vulnerability that makes her bravery and desire to understand much more meaningful.
Arrival makes me feel like I’ve been absorbed into whatever I’m sitting on. And I never fight it or even dare to move. DP Bradford Young and his consistently high-quality shots make sure of that. Find the biggest screen available to you, turn the volume up as loud as you can comfortably hear it and open yourself up to one of the most moving cinematic experiences available. When the end draws near, what you’ve seen is stirred and makes something new entirely. It culminates originally and with such a sense of purism I find it hard to explain how affecting it is because doing it justice is out of the question. I don’t think it in entirety can be quantified verbally.
Denis Villeneuve isn’t just a director to keep your eye on; he’s one to facilitate your love of cinema in and make way for.