Choosing To Survive In "Gravity"

Saturday, November 2, 2013 - 5:18pm

Choosing To Survive In "Gravity"

So much of the wisdom shared by Robert Thurman and Sharon Salzberg has to do with the choices we make in our lives: the choice to forgive those that hurt us, the choice to forgive ourselves, and the choice that we make every day — to choose love over anger. Mr. Thurman gives a great analogy, comparing our ability to choose how we respond to anger to that of a TV remote; we can always choose to change the channel.

Choice is at the center of Alfonso Cuarón’s latest film, Gravity.

Survival is the choice that Dr. Ryan Stone, played gracefully by Sandra Bullock, has to make in Gravity. Dr. Stone is an astronaut on her first space shuttle mission, servicing the Hubble Space Telescope. When space debris hits the telescope, her mission changes and she is thrust into one life-or-death moment after another.

Through conversations with herself as well as seasoned astronaut Matt Kowalski (George Clooney), we learn that Dr. Stone once had a daughter who died in an accident. Her grief over the death of her child weighs her down, and at a pivotal moment in the film, it seems that her grief has surpassed her will to live.

And then, she wakes up, both literally and figuratively. She changes her mind. In an instant, her choice is made.

Gravity is garnering a lot of buzz for its stunning visual effects, thanks to cutting-edge 3D technology as well as the genius of Mr. Cuarón's direction and the poetic eye of cinematographer (and frequent Cuarón collaborator) Emmanuel Lubezki. It’s even become a big office hit, a rarity for a sci-fi film.

But as impressive as all of this is, what is truly dazzling is the film’s message.

Gravity is a love letter to life, about choosing to fight to survive. At the end of the movie, Dr. Stone lands near an island somewhere in the ocean. We watch her swim to land, drag herself up on the sand and struggle to walk upright. Yes, it’s very Darwinian (and reminiscent of Planet of the Apes). And yes, it's unclear where exactly Dr. Stone is. Some movie critics and fans argue that Dr. Stone is actually dead and this is all a dream. But the film's message is still the same: she walks.


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Lily Percy

is senior supervising producer at On Being. Lily studied English Literature and Film Studies at Florida International University. She has worked as an associate editor at MovieMaker magazine, and as a producer for StoryCorps and NPR's "All Things Considered" on the weekends, where she produced the series "Movies I've Seen A Million Times." Her work has also been featured on NPR's Latino USA, WNYC's Soundcheck, and Esquire. In 2012, she received the Religion Newswriters Association Radio/Podcast Religion Report of the Year Award for her profile of four Roman Catholic Womenpriests.

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The end, when she stood, reminded me of the film's title. Fighting it, using it, cherishing it.

The message of the gravity is of Life itself. How life is formed through unbelievable circumstances. Think of the whole movie in space as a mother's womb (remember that scene, Sandra's body floating in circle as soon as she gets back to the ship). The final scene is of a baby who takes the step to live.

Now, the bigger question is, where is the choice? Do humans make choice in acquiring life? How? The simple answer may be procreation and reproduction, but is it really a choice?

I agree about Gravity's life-affirming message. I saw in that last scene not so much Planet of the Apes but the pictorial representations of aquatic life emerging from the sea, developing legs, and evolving into complexity. We should also be talking about the image of Stone floating inthe ISS like a baby in utero, with umbilical and all, about to be born into the next part of her life.