I finally got to watch Arrival the other day. It wasn’t exactly everything that I expected but I think I wasn’t displeased with the twist.
The fist half of the movie follows Louise, a professor who specializes in languages and translations. She is recruited by the government to help translate the language of aliens who had touched down on earth. Together with a mathematician, Ian, they slowly learn the writing system of the aliens.
At the climax, the aliens are at risk of being attacked by multiple countries around the world. This is when it is revealed that Louise can experience the future. She uses her glimpses of the future to piece together how exactly she had to prevent the attack on the aliens.
Throughout the movie, Louise had been seeing visions of her child. I initially thought these were flashbacks from the past and that the stress of sleepless nights had resurfaced painful memories for Louise. What was really happening was that Louise had been experiencing the future and the present simultaneously.
Louise marries her partner Ian and have a child together and that child is the one Louise had seen in her episodes into the future. While still in the present, Louise experiences multiple memories with her daughter Hannah and eventually learns that Hannah has an incurable disease that causes her to die in her teens.
This part of the movie caused great confusion for my SO and I.
If Louise knew that her daughter would have to suffer and die early, why did she choose to have her at all?
One of the arguments that I think is the most forgivable is that Louise is not able to control the outcome of her future, despite being able to see it. That is, her future is predetermined and she can’t change her future no matter what. So it doesn’t really matter that she knows what’s going to happen if she can’t change it.
A counter argument is that when she experiences the future, it is happening and she can make choices. There is hard evidence in the movie that supports this argument. When Louise is talking to her daughter at the lake, she asks her what day it is because she isn’t sure that what is happening is real or just a vision. Another scenario is when she is trying to think of a term for her daughter and it isn’t until she hears someone say it in the present that she can tell her daughter the term in the future.
In terms of morality, I have mixed feelings. Is it immoral of Louise to bring her daughter into the world if she knew her daughter would suffer? It’s a touchy subject and I cannot come to a complete decision on the topic.
On one hand, I’m a firm believer of “it’s better to have loved and lost than to not love at all.” As a result of knowing Hannah’s future, Louise is able to cherish each and every moment with her daughter. She loves Hannah with ever fiber of her being. Who’s to say that Hannah’s happier years weren’t worth it?
While I also believe in a women’s choice to do whatever she wants with her body, this situation is different because her actions absolutely impacts another person’s life negatively. It’s unfair that someone so young and just beginning her life would have it cut short. Some people might say it is cruel and irresponsible for Louise to bring her daughter into the world.
I really don’t know what to think of it but I keep turning it over in my mind. Louise doesn’t really have a rare circumstance. Some people have genetic disorders that can be passed down to their own kids. They have to choose whether or not they want to have kids or not. Some find out about a condition while the child is not yet born and they are faced with the same decision.
Is it up to the parents? Do some situations call for different actions or is there a universally ethical way of handling it? I don’t know myself. I hope I don’t have to choose and if I do, I hope I’ll be confident in my answer.