A linguist is one of the first ports of call when aliens stop by for a visit.
I’ve studied and had an interest in language my whole life, so this was guaranteed to have my curiosity from the outset. Pleasingly, this aspect continues to play a part throughout the picture – but there’s so much more to it than this.
Director Denis Villeneuve is someone whose work I have long admired, and this is yet another outstanding piece of cinema from the French-Canadian.
Amy Adams is the aforementioned linguist dealing with personal sadness who is called in to build connections with the visitors. As her quest begins it’s easy to feel her fear at being put in this extraordinary situation, and the tension of the initial encounter is evident. But her growing understanding of the aliens’ language is only part of the story.
The narrative explores philosophical questions about language, semantics and culture, and how this impacts on our view of the world. It also presents the idea that in learning a language, we open up a window into how other cultures think, and that it might be markedly different from our own comfortable view of existence.
Woven through this is a timely challenge to the nations of the world that talking to each other is infinitely preferable to working in isolation or exclusion.
But let’s not forget that this is ‘un film de Villeneuve’, and there is also something extra to contend with – not so much a twist, but a gradual understanding of something else going on for Adams’ professor. Even without this element it would have been a fabulous film, but these measured moments of discovery make the opening few minutes even more striking.
American Hustle, he was for me far and away the best thing about it. In Arrival he’s definitely in a supporting role to Adams, but he does it very well. I was also mesmerised by the score, created by Icelander Jóhann Jóhannsson.While it’s fair to say that this is Amy Adams’ film, I want to give a mention to Jeremy Renner. I do love him in the MCU, but I long for him to do something different nowadays. He was outstanding in The Hurt Locker (which seems to get forgotten) and although I had little time for