Gravity is so superbly shot you will walk away needing a massage. At times I felt like I was floating, then spinning, but for most of the time just tense. And I do mean just. Tendons strain and muscles tighten under moments of intensity only to release a feeble message. The actors handle the script like pros. Clooney and Bullock were believable, and unbelievable when need be. It’s a classic case of a mile wide and inch deep messaging. So for the wide-ranging exploration of our raison d’ etre, Alfonso Cuaron gets a nod. He covers a lot of space in the human exploration for meaning in life.
Curaon gives us a stunning view of the earth. The sunrise, the silence, and burning urban towers that dot our geography, paint a gorgeous backdrop for the film. In a film about space, the earth takes up an awful amount of space, and I am grateful. These shots endeared me to our remarkable planet, to its beauty and diversity and uniqueness. All this comes to a screeching halt, when Dr. Ryan Stone (Bullock) collides with a series of obstacles. She runs gamut of coping solutions as she encounters trial after trial. Humor, human connectedness, anger, sorrow, resolve, and spirituality. While searching her soul in a moment of clarity, she remarks “I’ve never prayed. Nobody every taught me to pray.” If that’s not a call for evangelism, I don’t know what is. We get a darting glance at a couple deities–Buddha and Jesus–but Ryan moves quickly past God to her deceased daughter.
Interestingly, she recognizes the need for a mediator to talk to her daughter, presumably because she is with God or in heaven of some sort. Her choice isn’t someone who can bridge the chasm between God and man–the Christ–but her late friend and astronaut, Matt Kowalksi. She asks him to tell her daughter that she loves her, and that she found the red shoe she was looking for under the couch. It is touching, and anyone who has lost a child will be able to identify with the longing to have one last word. Isn’t is curious that her Matt-mediated prayer she mixes the mundane and the profound–a shoe and love? What a great reminder to cherish the mundane moments with our children, to love them in the ordinariness of legos and lost shoes.
Moving on from the past and into the present, Bullock forces her way through each obstacle with tremendous will power. She battles each demon with fierceness of spirit and determination to “have one hell of a ride.” Matt’s voice seems to prod her on to survive, and survive she does. One of the closing shots says it all, a forceful foot in the mud, bearing the weight of her tense and wobbly, gravity-ridden body, she sticks her landing to put two square feet on the ground. I made it. You can do it. We will survive. However you want to say it, the film is a cinematic beauty, tense thriller, and an ode to the human will to survive. Unfortunately, it is vaporous on why we should will ourselves through this life. There is no fixed truth, no depth of contact with the divine, no summit of human purpose. But to its credit, many of these issues are raised, and in an age of comfort, distraction, and hype, that’s much more than we are used to.