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The On Being Project

Choosing To Survive In “Gravity”

Choosing To Survive In “Gravity”

So much of the wisdom shared by Robert Thurman and Sharon Salzberg has to do with the choices we make in our lives: the choice to forgive those that hurt us, the choice to forgive ourselves, and the choice that we make every day — to choose love over anger. Mr. Thurman gives a great analogy, comparing our ability to choose how we respond to anger to that of a TV remote; we can always choose to change the channel.

Choice is at the center of Alfonso Cuarón’s latest film, Gravity.

Survival is the choice that Dr. Ryan Stone, played gracefully by Sandra Bullock, has to make in Gravity. Dr. Stone is an astronaut on her first space shuttle mission, servicing the Hubble Space Telescope. When space debris hits the telescope, her mission changes and she is thrust into one life-or-death moment after another.

Through conversations with herself as well as seasoned astronaut Matt Kowalski (George Clooney), we learn that Dr. Stone once had a daughter who died in an accident. Her grief over the death of her child weighs her down, and at a pivotal moment in the film, it seems that her grief has surpassed her will to live.

And then, she wakes up, both literally and figuratively. She changes her mind. In an instant, her choice is made.
Gravity is garnering a lot of buzz for its stunning visual effects, thanks to cutting-edge 3D technology as well as the genius of Mr. Cuarón’s direction and the poetic eye of cinematographer (and frequent Cuarón collaborator) Emmanuel Lubezki. It’s even become a big office hit, a rarity for a sci-fi film.

But as impressive as all of this is, what is truly dazzling is the film’s message.

Gravity is a love letter to life, about choosing to fight to survive. At the end of the movie, Dr. Stone lands near an island somewhere in the ocean. We watch her swim to land, drag herself up on the sand and struggle to walk upright. Yes, it’s very Darwinian (and reminiscent of Planet of the Apes). And yes, it’s unclear where exactly Dr. Stone is. Some movie critics and fans argue that Dr. Stone is actually dead and this is all a dream. But the film’s message is still the same: she walks.

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