“This post contains major plot spoilers about Arrival.
“In one of the final scenes of Arrival, the new first-contact science fiction film with a focus on linguistics, Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams) explains why she got divorced. “He said I made the wrong choice,” the linguist tells her daughter Hannah. It’s an easy line to overlook, especially as the gravity of the film’s second-half surprise sinks in. Throughout the film, Louise is experiencing not her memories of the past, but living out precognitive moments of her own future. She is experiencing time out of order, because her efforts to understand an alien language have irreversibly rewired her brain.
The credit for this narrative trick goes to author Ted Chiang, who plotted Arrival back in 2002 as a first-person short story called Story of Your Life. His work cleverly uses different tenses, mixing future, past, and present to weave the complex non-linear knot of Louise’s life in a way reminiscent of Billy Pilgrim from Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five.
Chiang’s hidden meanings, and the things that inevitably got lost in translating his words to the big screen, are pivotal to help viewers understand what Arrival is saying.”Reading Ted Chiang’s ‘Story of Your Life’ gives you a deeper understanding of the message of ‘Arrival’” ”