Last night, my husband and I went to see Gravity. I've been wanting to see it since it came out, but we don't get many opportunities to see movies without singing cartoons in them, so we have to plan accordingly. Thankfully this is still in theaters, and allowed me to check off one of the nominated films.
One of these years I will see them all before the Academy Awards. One of these years. Probably not anytime in the near future...but it's good to have a goal, right?
Anyhow, we went to see it. He found a theater locally still showing it in IMAX 3-D. Apparently, when we haven't seen a grown-up movie in a while, we need to overcompensate. I was a bit nervous since IMAX movies tend to make me nauseous, and I did have to close my eyes a few times, but I made it through the movie without running from the theater, so I will call it a win.
The rest of this post will contain spoilers, so if you haven't seen it yet and will yell at me for ruining something, please stop reading.
The rest of this post may seem to ramble a bit. I apologize in advance. There is just a lot going through my head after seeing it. I laughed a bit after it ended, remembering all the posts I had seen when it was first released questioning the science of the film. Are there pieces that might not hold water? Of course...but at the end of the day, you have to remember that it's a movie. A stunningly gorgeous one, at that.
Speaking of which, I knew what the movie was about before we saw it, I even knew about the background of the main character and how it ended. Still, nothing was spoiled.
The Loss of a Child
When it first came out, a dear writer friend of mine went to see it in an attempt to escape her reality. After all, that is what movies are supposed to be for, right? As it turned out, though, it was anything but an escape and instead became a reminder of where she is, where she has been.
Dr. Ryan Stone, played by Sandra Bullock, lost her four year old daughter in a freak accident years before the story in the film takes place. At some point, the information about her is revealed, and I can't even begin to imagine what a blow that would have been for Mary Tyler Mom, my friend who also lost her daughter when she was four, though to cancer instead of an accident. She wrote about her experience with the film here in an attempt to prevent other parents in similar situations from being blindsided with the background story.
The loss of her daughter, as you come to see during the film, was a large part of why Dr. Stone was who she was then, why she did what she did, why she felt comforted by the silence of space, why she was afraid to die but welcomed it anyway, and finally, what gave her the motivation to fight to survive.
It's profound, this emotional struggle that you see play out on the screen. I would think it would be moving for anyone. For those who have lost children, exponentially more real.
I anticipated that seeing the film would probably tap into my anxiety issues, but knowing that going in seemed to help. The scene when she is untethered and spinning uncontrollably further and further into space was abjectly terrifying. I don't think any other word could possibly do it justice.
To be so helpless, to know that you are being pushed away from life and that you are powerless to do anything to stop it is something that I've only truly experienced once in my life - in the moments right after I was told that my baby had died. It is something visceral and raw and it takes the breath from you and squeezes it out.
I'm glad that I knew about that part of the movie going into it. I don't know that I would have been able to watch it otherwise.
Death Can Be Beautiful
George Clooney's character, Matt Kowalski, is a veteran astronaut on his final trip when tragedy strikes. His final moments, when all you can hear is his voice as he drifts further and further away, were hard to hear. The words, hard to process. In those last moments, he knew what was coming, he was well trained for the inevitable and he seemed to face it without fear or hesitation. Instead he turned on his favorite music and admired the beauty around him while he still could.
It was beautiful.
Death can be beautiful, which is something we refuse to see in our society. Though almost none of us will ever be astronauts that meet our end drifting though space, our ends will come. The only thing certain in life is death, and yet it is something that too many of us fear. Because of that fear, we often find ourselves desperately trying to save people at the end. Life saving measures, surgeries, tubes, ventilators, all inflicting more pain but rarely saving anyone. And for what?
Death can be beautiful when it is welcome. When it is surrounded by love and peace and calm and friendship and family. I know this because it is how my father died. He was prepared, as much as he could have been, like this fictional man floating away. Enjoying what time he had left, and then letting go.
Fear and Courage
For almost the entire movie, the characters are in danger. Mortal, immediate danger. Though they are well trained, the fear is still there. The fear can still take hold. The fear does take over at times. Eventually, Dr. Stone fights through the fear and finds her inner strength.
What are we afraid of? It may not be something as overwhelming as an impending debris field, but is there something out there looming in the distance, keeping you on your toes?
Is it something that keeps you from doing what you should, what you must in order to not just survive, but thrive?
Can you power through the fear? Courage isn't about the absence of fear, not at all. It is about being afraid and doing it anyway.
Films like this one that include shots of the Earth from space, almost by definition, are supposed to make us ponder our place in the universe. Our smallness. Our insignificance.
When life overwhelms me, I try to remember that I am but one of over 7 billion people on this planet. My problems are inconsequential when compared to what most of those 7 billion people have to face every single day. What is huge and even life altering for me is just a drop in the bucket of humanity.
Do you ever just think about that? The hugeness of the universe? How little we know?
Do you ever stare up at the night sky and wonder what it all means? If there are planets full of life out there pondering the same thing?
I do. All the time. I marvel at it. It humbles me, keeps me grounded.
It tells me that no matter how much I think I know, I really don't know anything. Seeking knowledge only makes me want to seek more of it. The more I absorb, the more I realize how much more there is to know and understand the truth that I will never be able to learn it all.
Movies are for entertainment. They transport us somewhere we may never be able to visit, take us to a time and place far and away. They use lighting and images and music and sound to immerse us somewhere else entirely. Sometimes they take us all the way there just to bring us inward, to make us feel, to make us think.
The best movies do it all. They leave us asking questions, not just of the filmmakers, but of ourselves.
One of those.
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