While the sci-fi genre is typically reserved for high-stakes, big-budget action, director Denis Villeneuve’s latest, Arrival, stands apart from its peers. Villeneuve and writer Eric Heisserer instead opt for a wonderfully human and refreshingly grounded take on the alien invasion tale in what is one of the year’s absolute best films.
The film appropriately begins with an arrival, although not (yet) one of the alien variety, but instead one of childbirth. Over a couple minute’s time, through montage and monologue, we’re effectively introduced to the film’s lead, Louise Banks (Amy Adams), as she cradles her newborn daughter in the initial moments. We quickly move through the child’s life from infant to toddler to teenager, watching the loving relationship between mother and daughter grow before the child’s life is cut painfully short due to a rare illness. Arrival’s opening is intensely emotional, and also remarkable in its ability to give such depth to a character and her situation with so little time.