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“Absence is not a hole to be filled; it’s an opportunity to experience the worth of our relationships, an opportunity to give ourselves, not as local presences, but as persons. Absence allows us to be intentional in our self-manifestation, not merely appearing or showing up, but actively crafting an expression of our interior lives in the letter or the gift. Distance allows us to reinsert work into our communication, and our works reveal us with greater clarity than the clearest of webcams could.”
Arrival is, to be sure, an alien flick. But under that sci-fi veneer is a film about communication, and the effort required to understand someone (or, in this case, something) who looks and speaks differently than you do.
In the film, this patient work falls to linguist Louise Banks (Amy Adams), who is summoned to Montana, by the US Military, to communicate with an alien race known as the “heptapods.” (Heads up: Minor spoilers lie ahead.) The aliens write with “logograms,” circular glyphs that resemble coffee stains. The symbols are simultaneously mesmerizing and utterly foreign.