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Gravity

Connection and IsolationMedia

“The force that attracts a body toward the center of the earth, or toward any other physical body having mass” (Oxford Languages) or “an invisible force that pulls objects toward each other” (NASA).

Gravity, by definition, relies on connection. This is the theme at the core of the Alfonso Cuarón-led movie of the same name.

Gravity, a 2013 sci-fi thriller directed, produced, and written by Alfonso Cuarón, is a story about Dr. Ryan Stone who, alongside Matt Kowalsky, is on a spacewalk doing their routine work until disaster hits, leaving them stranded and isolated in space with no way back home.

At its core, Gravity is a film about isolation and connection. Even in the opening title screens, the writers make this known with the stylistic choice of spacing out the movie title, showing early tidbits of the plot to the viewer. The film is set in space, a vast and possibly isolating place. With smart dialogue, stunning visuals, and intentional and timely shots, Gravity gets its message across. The movie begins with banter between Kowalsky and Stone as well as with their home base, aptly called Houston. It’s evident that there is a connection between these people when Kowalsky starts a story that many at the base have already heard. All seems well until it isn’t, and the communication satellite is struck by debris, leaving Dr. Stone and Kowalsky stranded.

Gravity relies heavily on its cast, Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, simply because for the majority of the film it is them we follow. But as we continue through the film, another character pops up: space. The setting almost seems like its own non-verbal character, for its presence and the deafening isolation it provides the characters is the film’s catalyst. Space appears on screen just as often as Bullock and Clooney, and even with no lines its presence and effects are clearly felt by the viewer and the characters.

Along with isolation, the film also deals with connection, featuring physical forms of connection like tethering and less tangible forms like dialogue and actions that show attempts at connection. Throughout the film, Stone and Kowalsky continuously talk to their home base, like at the beginning of the movie, but also long after they’ve lost connection with them. The movie works best when it’s dealing with these themes; there is a poignant scene where there is both a symbolic and actual loss of connection, and it is striking. It dives deep into the effects of isolation, how far it can push us, and how connection — connection with ourselves and others — can save us even in isolation. The movie also dissects the idea of how connection can seem like it is holding us back when really it is pushing us forward.

In some spots, the movie can feel slow, but these moments are few and far between and almost feel intended to bring us back into the heart of the story. When you look at the movie as a whole, it is a simple vehicle — it has few cast members, one main location, and one narrative with nothing to detract or distract from the one plotline of the movie. Yet, even with one location, the movie doesn’t feel cramped, and as Stone and Kowalsky move through space, it feels as if we, the audience, are moving with them. The continuous movement of the camera and shots of Stone and Kowalsky floating help emphasize this feeling even more.

The simplicity of the film could have easily worked against it but that simplicity is what makes it work. Cuarón lets the complex themes work their magic within the simple vehicle of the movie instead of bogging it down with complex plots and excessive baggage. In that sense, this film is not your typical film. It’s a simpler story than most films with one, albeit vast, location. By focusing on essentially one character and using that simple narrative, Gravity is able to tell a complex story about connection and isolation.

Overall, I give Gravity four out of five stars for what it is able to accomplish as a 90-minute film and the depths it is able to reach with such a simple story. In the hands of lesser actors, Gravity could have easily been a snooze-fest, but George Clooney and especially Sandra Bullock use the simple dialogue to make us feel the gravity and the power of their words. As a result, the film avoids the dreaded descriptor “boring.” There are many scenes in which Bullock and Clooney provide us with a masterclass in acting, but my favorite involves dogs, woofing, and some miscommunication. And Gravity is nothing if not well-timed. Shots including Dr. Stone in the fetal position, for example, indicate her vulnerability, and visual cuts coincide with the dialogue and action we’re seeing.

Though audiences that prefer a flashier movie might not enjoy Gravity or find it slow-paced, I think they would be in a minority. There is enough action in Gravity that even younger audiences can grasp and enjoy it. It’s filled with symbolism and meaning that will enthrall older audiences. Gravity, just like the definition of the word, is about “an invisible force that pulls objects toward each other.” The film is almost paradoxical in nature. It’s simple yet complex. It’s slow yet fast-paced. But Gravity most definitely is one “hell of a ride” (Cuarón).

Sources:

“Definition of Gravity .” Oxford Languages.

“Gravity (2013).” Rotten Tomatoes, www.rottentomatoes.com/m/gravity_2013.

“What Is Gravity?” NASA, NASA, 17 Dec. 2020. spaceplace.nasa.gov/what-is-gravity/en/.

Neissa Raymond is a 17-year-old from Port-au-Prince, Haiti. She enjoys reading, sports, writing, learning, and experiencing different cultures.

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