When the topic of transition came up, the first thing that sprung to mind, most likely because it was already there, was Gravity. Director Alfonso Cuaron’s latest film does such a beautiful job of portraying this thematic element. Add this to the incredible filmmaking and it makes for an experience viewers will not soon forget. Many films attempt and succeed at depicting the idea of transition in a characters life, but none do so as masterfully as Gravity.
Throughout the course of the film we learn that Sandra Bullock’s character Dr. Ryan Stone, who is a medical engineer on her first space mission, had her only child die at the age of four from a school yard “accident”. Through dialogue and actions we begin to understand she clearly has not moved on from this, and who can blame her? Stone nearly gives in several times, she begins to accept her fate and waits for the end to come, which almost seems inevitable at some points. However, about two thirds through the film she has a pivotal moment alone with her thoughts where she tells herself she needs to live for her daughter and try to move on, and begins, from that moment on, a new part of her life. Sandra Bullock is incredible in this moment showing us this transitional point in her character’s life. Cuaron adds to these key scenes by visually showing us these thematic elements. At one point in the film, Bullock falls asleep and in the process curls up, almost like an embryo. Cuaron is trying to get across the idea that she is being reborn and moving in a different direction in her life when she wakes up from this position and its beautifully done. The cinematography and 3D particularly in this scene aid so much in eliciting the feeling that the filmmakers want you to feel. The use of 3D in a movie set in space is a great idea and is spectacular not only in this scene but throughout the whole movie. He uses it to direct your eyes to where he wants you to have them and it is masterfully done.
Towards the end of the film, Cuaron again hits home on the idea that she is in a transitional period. When Bullock finally, after going to hell and back, reaches earth safely, she is a new person both physically and mentally. It’s the first day of the rest of her life. When she begins to walk after landing, Cuaron focuses the camera on her legs and it’s as if she is walking for the first time. It’s almost like watching an animal when it’s first born and can’t quite find its footing and balance because of its weak legs; this is a metaphor for her taking the first steps in her new life. It is striking and emotional all at the same time. This highlights only a few moments, but Bullock is sensational throughout the whole film, doing an amazing job of externally showing us her inner struggles while dealing with this nerve-wrecking transitional period in her life. She is literally the only person on screen for 75% of the movie and she is absolutely captivating. Cuaron does his part as well in aiding all of the themes in the movie, including transition, with wonderful visuals and it all adds up to not only to the best film of the year, but one of the best films of it’s time, and there is absolutely no hyperbole there. When technology and emotion meet, it’s a wonderful pairing that we get all too rarely in cinema these days. It’s something that a young Steven Spielberg mastered and hasn’t quite brought back; thankfully we have Alfonso Cuaron to sate us. Let’s just not wait another seven years to make our next film, ok Alfonso? Thanks.