The most notable thing about Alfonso Cuarón’s “Gravity” is what the film is not. It is not a romance (despite a “til death do us part” moment). It is a space-age adventure, but there are no distracting scenes of Mission Control. (Houston is not only “in the blind,” but also deaf and mostly mute.) Three frenemies–Russia, China, US–are linked in disaster (though no one is really to blame). It is a stunning visual experience (with some technical inaccuracies, as Neil deGrasse Tyson pointed out) but it is an epic as old as “The Odyssey,” a plot that for all its out-of-this-world setting is as familiar as the existential crises we all face every day.
“Who will miss me?” Sandra Bullock’s character asks at one point. “Who will mourn for me? Who will pray for me?” Isn’t that our biggest fear? To be forgotten? We may be the stars of our own daily show, pulled under by the weight of our own (and legitimate) concerns, but in the dark night of the soul, or space, we’re scared to admit that our lives might not matter much. And all the “likes,” “follows” and frantic action are merely “full of sound and fury/Signifying nothing.”
In an op-ed in yesterday’s Washington Post, David Ignatius likened the chaos and caprice of life in October 2013 to the heroine’s tumbling through space. We are all tumbling, he said, helpless in the face of implacable forces we don’t understand and can’t work around. It is the lack of gravity—and gravitas—that leaves us unmoored, disconnected and lost.
“Gravity” is not a movie. It is a beautiful, terrifying and haunting stand-in for life on earth.