One of my guilty pleasures is a film starring Sandra Bullock titled Two Weeks Notice (2004) and for this reason I am compelled to watch most films with her in the lead role… that is until she became ridiculous with The Lake House (2005) and I really did not enjoy The Blind Side (2009). Call me heartless, but it was predictable and I, personally, believed Meryl Streep was perfection (as per usual) in Julie & Julia… or at least more perfect than Bullock’s Oscar “worthy”/winning performance. However, this year I believe Sandra Bullock redeemed herself in Gravity (2013), which is one of the best films to watch this year.
I heard mixed reviews of this film. “Filmies”, as I call them, were impressed by the cinematography, editing, and special effects… but many felt the plot left a lot to be desired or went overboard with suspense. I felt the film was about much more than techniques and plot. I know I’m notorious for focusing on the importance of plot, but the underlying themes and messages of Gravity were poignant and stuck with me for a number of hours. The importance of the film can be summed up in two scenes. There will be spoilers.
The first scene worthy of awe takes place after Bullock’s character, Dr. Ryan Stone, reaches the International Space Station reliant upon the remaining oxygen expelled from the tank into her suit until the spacecraft can accommodate without the space suit. As she is close to passing out from the carbon dioxide intake, she quickly removes her suit and is vulnerable in a similar fashion to Ellen Ripley in Alien (1976) with skin-tight undergarments. Instead of a controversial sexually objectifying shot, Alfonso Cuarón captures Bullock from the side as she slowly curls into a fetal position and floats like an embryo in the womb.
Comparable to Alien, the space station (and other spacecrafts) act as a mother figure. Motherhood has taken the back seat in Ryan’s life as she lost her daughter accidentally. The tragedy set her behind and regressed her into a childlike fear of taking on the world. Though she is successful in her career, she is incapable of trusting herself and relies on orders from others. Her isolation and reliance upon the “mothership” is referenced in the shot of Ryan in the “womb.”
At the conclusion, she is able to break through the atmosphere and experience rebirth where gravity reminds her of the capabilities she once had to stand on her own two feet. She is finally able to overcome the loss of her daughter as she accepts death could have been her reality in this suspenseful situation and that accidents happen. Ryan’s rebirth takes place with the close-up shot of Bullock’s feet gripping the sand as she remembers how to walk. Bullock redeems herself as an actress and I am so pleased to see such a strong female character emerge on the big screen. Hopefully her character will inspire a “rebirth” of admirable women learning to accept what they cannot change, pushing forward, and thriving individually.