Gravity (directed by Alfonso Cuaron)

The visceral experience of this movie is exhausting.  I found myself covering my eyes, crouching in my seat, holding my breath, hyperventilating.  When it was over, I walked slowly to the bathroom.  Another woman was wobbling on her way to the same place. When we both were at the sink, washing our hands, she said, “Did you just see Gravity?  I did, and I feel like I haven’t got over it.”  I could hardly speak.  I didn’t want to break the spell.  It is a sign of a good movie when that happens.

Gravity is what humans need. The absence of it makes humans become something else, humanoids perhaps, dressed in protective layers of clothing that allow them to enter that zone of what I call pure science.  Instinct has little place here.  You need to know how to compensate not only for the lack of gravity but also other things, like no oxygen, and temperatures that are three times the ones you can live in.

Sandra Bullock and George Clooney are two astronauts tethered together on what seems a routine mission on a shuttle type space craft when a dangerous storm of debris hits.  What follows is a story that reminded me of Robinson Crusoe, with more emphasis on how Crusoe got to the island than on what he did after.  First he had to survive the shipwreck.

The agony of being isolated and alone is what Sandra Bullock must convey, also how intelligent, how well trained, how stalwart,how human she is. Watching her act the part of Ryan Stone is a pleasure.  Clooney brings his usual charm and offhanded line delivery to the part of Matt Kowalski. He has lots of experience walking around in space in contrast with Stone. His is the calm voice, coaxing her to keep going.

There is only one thing I had a problem with.  It has to do with the use of the word “angel” when identifying dead people we love.  It sentimentalizes them, and somehow takes away their unique power. It vulgarizes the mourning that people do, the way throwing a pile of teddy bears and balloons on a child’s grave does.  When Bullock speaks of dead people she loves as if they will meet up in the great beyond, it feels false since she had just confessed that she had never prayed in her life.  So a bit of schmaltz creeps into the movie, keeping it from being practically perfect.

I was moved most by the view of earth from space.  It is tragic to think that we are destroying our beloved planet with our unreasonable demands for oil, energy, and land. The loss of humans pales in comparison to the destruction through greed of the only planet we know of that can support human life.


About Patricia Markert

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