By Jonathan Decker (Family therapist, film critic)
WHAT'S ARRIVAL ABOUT?
A linguist and a physicist work with the military to communicate with extraterrestrials and determine their intentions.
IS IT ANY GOOD? (GRADE: A)
Artistic, well-acted, and tremendously moving, Arrival is smart sci-fi in the league of Contact and Gattaca. Avoid spoilers at all costs; discovering the narrative surprises and the finale's emotional wallop unsullied is an integral part of the experience. Suffice to say that it's about far more than the trailers would suggest. Take my A review and the film's 94% Rotten Tomatoes rating at face value and go check it out.
Director Denis Villeneuve, with screenwriters Eric Heisserur and Ted Chiang, allows events to unspool at a steady, confident pace that initially may test audience patience but rewards us handsomely as the story progresses. Amy Adams does stunning work here, Jeremy Renner dials down the smarm to give a likable every-man performance, and Forest Whitaker is solid as always. Cinematography and music are first rate. Design of the aliens and their technology is appropriately bizarre. Messages about fearing those who are different are handled without heavy-handed preachiness. Best of all, you'll leave thinking about how to better live your own life and appreciate others. Don't miss it.
IS IT OKAY FOR YOUR KIDS?
Arrival is rated PG-13. There is one f-word and a few other mild-to-moderate profanities. A husband and wife dance and he asks her if she wants to make a baby (it's romantic and sincere, not crass). Aliens are frightful-looking and there are intense moments of rioting, guns drawn and fired, and an explosion.
ANY WORTHWHILE MESSAGES?
Treasure your life and the choices you make. Pain is the price we pay to love; the only way to live without pain is to live without love. Try to understand those who are different from you instead of fearing them.
If you enjoy Arrival, check out Contact!
Jonathan Decker is the clinical director of Your Family Expert. He is a licensed marriage and family therapist, husband, and father of five. Jonathan earned a masters degree in family therapy from Auburn University as well as a bachelor's degree in clinical psychology from Brigham Young University. He is an actor, author, and television personality.