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Tuesday, 12 November 2013

The Gravity of the situation

Alfonso Cuaron tells a masterly tale in the superb film 'Gravity' released this week. I don't want to give away too many spoilers, but this is a film about life, death, faith, fate, science, hope and that ultimately, in space, no one can hear you scream. There are no aliens in this one, just the horror of when you are faced with your own imminent extinction.

The story is essentially about Dr Ryan Stone, a mission specialist on a NASA shuttle craft, and how she copes with a series of catastrophic incidents which leave her chances of survival 'barely possible' (some would argue 'barely plausible' but I think you have to let Alfonso tell the story!)

She is aided by Matt Kowalski, on his last mission in space, his guidance and humour help her keep it together when every possible ray of hope is disintegrating.

She has used her work and space as a way of coping with the death of her 4 year old daughter, who tripped and fell and died. Now she has to work out whether she still has the will to live.

Whilst the effects do drive the film, (and they are spectacular) it is the emotional tale that makes the film so powerful and compelling. In a way, it completes a trilogy begun with Cuaron's other films 'Y Tu Mama Tambien' and continued in 'Children of Men', that examines the theme of death, and hope amidst terrible odds. These are all films in which at the end, you the viewer, come out of the cinema wanting to live for every last second.

Cuaron is sparse in the story telling, and yet issues of faith and prayer come to the surface, with references to Christianity, Buddhism and Hinduism carefully woven into the story. But from womb to tomb - this is a story about life and whether we decide to live or die, or let the past close us down.

The themes of sacrifice and indeed resurrection will please the Christian audience - but I think this is a film which has set its aim even higher than one particular belief system. Whether you have a faith or not, you will leave the cinema being thankful for every gulp of air that you take - and that is film making at its very, very best.

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