The questions and message of Arrival

(spoilers ahead for the movie Arrival)

I had heard and read that Arrival was a really good movie with a surprise twist at the very end. For once I am happy to say I was not disappointed. The movie is certainly tinged with sadness throughout and at the end (for those who have lost a child to a disease this movie could prove especially difficult to watch). Considering the questions it left me with it I’m very glad I took the chance in buying it even before having seen it. (An extra bonus to buying the dvd was to watch some of the extras and hear the interviews from the people discussing the story. In one of the featurettes they discussed the mixture of philosophy, science and other theories that led to the ultimate premise of the story.)

As someone who has often questioned God when it comes to pain and suffering I greatly enjoyed the way this movie asked a complex and difficult question. Though this movie doesn’t delve into whether there is a god or if he is a part of what happens in our lives that doesn’t make the question any less compelling. The question being:

‘If you knew how your life would turn out, would you choose to live it again?’

Or as I thought about it after the movie was over I would put it this way: If you knew how your life would play out with all its pain and suffering (and if you knew you could not change it) would you still live it?

And in this particular movie a more specifically focused question might be: If you knew that you would have a child who would die before you would you still choose to have that child?

As a Christian these kinds of questions haunt me because even believing that things will turn out ok for me in the end it still isn’t good enough (for me). I want to know that it will turn out alright for most if not all people. So here is another variation of the question:

If I knew that most people would suffer in this life as well as the next would I still want to be a part of God’s plan?

I suppose how one answers any of these questions might depend on how one’s life has turned out so far. If one has had a non-traumatizing American dream type of life than I’m guessing that person wouldn’t hesitate to answer they’d be happy to live it again. Though I fully realize that plenty of people who have faced great pain would still choose to live their lives again. But the reason we all know these questions could prove difficult to answer is because we know people who have suffered great hardship and heartbreak and we know that we all could be one phone call away from such pain.

The other thing that struck me about this movie was how the main character answers the first question given above. Her answer indicates a very pro-life point of view and yet the idea that maybe we would choose to never have someone in our life because of the pain it would bring is something another character does have to wrestle with.

How much pain would you endure to know any of the loved ones in your life? As one writer put it it is clearly a grace of God that we not be given the ability to see our futures in detail because it could easily overwhelm us. Especially if we know it is unavoidable.

So many questions and very few answers. This is often how I feel things are for me. But I think this movie did an excellent job of asking good questions while leaving individuals to sort out the answers for themselves.

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