Spoiler Filled Review of Arrival


The movie and the short story make you think, but it is a good story, and I loved both. The movie I think, stayed pretty true to the original story. This post may sound more like a book report.

The short story was much like The Martian (book) though, where I skimmed through the scientific terms without fully understanding all of it.

Arrival the movie was based on a short story called, “Story of Your Life” by Ted Chiang. I watched the movie before I knew there was a short story, and I just finished reading the short story, so I’m going to do a movie/story review here.

It is about the “arrival” of aliens. Also, a story about the character and her daughter. It is not an alien action movie. It is a story of language and time and space. It makes you think. And language and how it affects our way of thinking is so fascinating to me because I am bilingual, and my brain can’t count, but it can switch between two languages in seconds.

I’ll be honest, I’m not sure I would be able to follow the short story had I not seen the movie and known exactly what was happening.

When almond shaped ships land all over the world, a linguistic professor is asked to help with the communication of these aliens they call “heptapods.”


There are linguists and physicists involved, and they are trying to figure out why the aliens have arrived on Earth by learning the alien language through a looking glass that separates the humans from the aliens. They pool data from all over the world because these “ships” landed all over.

Suspension of disbelief did not hold up for me at first because I don’t think realistically it would have taken them so little time to figure out the alien language. I say, “at first,” because I suppose it could be learned quickly since they’re pooling their data with so many other scientists. I also realize it probably seems even quicker since it was a short story and Hollywood’s accounting for people’s short attention spans, so there was a lot of flash forwarding in time.

This is not just about aliens. It is also about the linguist’s daughter. In both the movie and the short story, there is a back and forth between the alien story line and her time with her daughter. I don’t mind it because it all ties together.

The movie did something different. In both platforms, the character has the ability to see the timeline of her life which I believe she gained from her interaction with the aliens. In the movie, she used it to bring everyone back on board with trying to figure out the alien language together and peacefully. This part I did not like because then I wondered if she pulled from the future to figure this out, then how did she originally figure it out without knowing the future?

Upon a lot of thinking and reading the short story though, I think the aliens do not see time like the humans do. Their time line is not linear, so since she was so immersed in their language after learning it, she started to see time as they did which I guess is what gave her the power to “see the future.” Since she was seeing time like the aliens, then it wasn’t the “future” but part of the simultaneous timeline. Confused? See!

The movie still bugs me in that she relied on “seeing the future” to solve her “present” problem with getting all the nations on board with continuing their alien research. The short story merely told the story, and there was nothing really solved. This bugs me less because I see it as a story of how she was able to see the timeline all at once.

At least I think I have the answer I want.


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