Monday, October 21st, 2013
Major spoiler alert: Gravity—the box office hit starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney as astronauts—isn’t about space at all. I mean, of course all the action takes place in space, and it’s packed with plenty breathtaking shots of our planet as seen from above, but Gravity is about something far more down to earth. Specifically, it’s about what it means to be a parent.
Ryan Stone, played by Sandra Bullock, is a scientist on her first venture out into space. Much like a newborn baby, she’s in a brand new place where the very unexpected and dangerous can—and does—happen. (Director Alfonso Cuarón even goes so far with the newborn metaphor as to show us Ryan floating in the fetal position with what looks like an umbilical cord tethering her—watch for it maybe 30 minutes in, really cool shot.) Luckily for Ryan she’s not alone. Matt Kowalski, her far more space-savvy colleague, takes on a very paternal role, coaching her through unfamiliar situations, and straight-up parenting her. But, like with all parent/child relationships, there’s a time that Matt has to literally let go, and Ryan will have to find her own way armed only with the lessons Matt has left her. It’s one of the most direct stories of growing up and finding your legs that I’ve seen in ages. It’s also a beautiful, if painful, lesson in the necessity of setting your progeny free.
But let’s talk more about Sandra Bullock’s character, Ryan. She isn’t just any woman trying to grow up and find her way in this unpredictable, often scary universe. We learn early on that she’s a mother—specifically, a mother whose daughter was killed at a very young age in a freak playground accident. Some critics have called Ryan’s backstory “schmaltzy,” but I think it’s vital to the story, in underlining that parents (and people in general) want to think we have control, when in reality so many things in life are terrifyingly beyond our influence. No, it’s not a warm and fuzzy message—but I don’t think parenting is warm and fuzzy all the time. Raising a child, knowing that her well-being and even existence depends on you, can be scary. Nearly as scary at times, some might argue, as floating above the earth, unprotected, with giant hunks of space debris hurtling in your direction.
The lesson Gravity teaches is that parenting (and life in general) can be a harrowing experience. The best thing we can do is to push forward, never give up, and try to cherish the exquisite view along the way.
Image of Gravity star Sandra Bullock courtesy yahoo.comAdd a Comment