Based on Ted Chiang’s short story “Story of Your Life,” Arrival is a sci-fi film directed by Denis Villeneuve and adapted by Eric Heisserer.
When I first heard of this film, I was in the middle of reading “Story of Your Life.” Our Asian-American Literature professor was upset that once again, Hollywood was white-washing a story created by an Asian author. Back then, it was revealed that Amy Adams would play the lead role, and neither my classmates and I were having it. When the film was released I refused to see it. But recently, I started wondering how the film would compare to the source material and to be completely honest, I was missing out.
***WARNING: SPOILERS BELOW***
Although there are some differences between the film and Chiang’s original story, Arrival manages to capture the love that Louise Banks has towards her daughter. This is the driving force in the short story and it is also what grounds the film amidst the science fiction element.
The back-and-forth between flashbacks, flash-forwards, and present work seamlessly in the film that when it is revealed that the heptapods gave Louise the ability to see the future, it made perfect sense. In the short-story I was sometimes thrown off balance when a tonal shift happened between the past tense and present.
But where the movie completely won me over was the ending. Reading the story and seeing it up on a screen are two different things. When I finished the story, I had a vague idea of what I had just read, but after watching the film I knew what it meant. I guess its one of those cases where you hear a song, but don’t really hear the lyrics until you understand them. Louise Banks knew her daughter would die from an incurable disease, and that her husband would leave her afterward, but she still goes down the path to have her, because no matter how short their time would be together, she would get to know her.