A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
While many sci-fi movies are about battles and war, Arrival is more interested in compassion for and understanding of an alien race than in trying to wipe it out; the danger in the movie is that war will start if the good guys can't make a connection in time. There's also a message about time and choices that's better experienced than explained. If you could see the future and the past all at once, would you make different choices?
Positive Role Models
The central character is a strong, intelligent, independent woman. Her natural curiosity and compassion -- as well as those same qualities in her male colleague -- eventually pay off in a big way.
Violence & Scariness
A young girl dies (off screen) of a vicious illness; hospital scenes, girl in bed, hair gone. Explosion. Threat of war.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A man and woman slowly form a bond, culminating in a hug. References to a spousal relationship.
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One use of "f--k." Also "damn," "hell," "God no," "screw it," "idiot," "I hate you."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
An adult character drinks wine at home.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Arrival is a deeply thoughtful sci-fi movie about trying to communicate with aliens rather than defeat them. It presents battle and war as last resorts, with only frightened, desperate people looking to violence as a solution. It champions education, compassion, and curiosity and has a strong female lead character (Amy Adams). Brief, upsetting hospital scenes show a girl dying of an invasive disease, and there's an explosion and the threat of war. Language is infrequent, although there is one use of "f--k." Other words heard are more along the lines of "screw it," "God no," "I hate you," and "idiot." One adult character drinks wine, and there are references to a married relationship, a budding romance, and a hug. Although the movie is slow-paced, it's a great, exceptionally compassionate pick for families with curious, thoughtful tweens and teens. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
This deeply thoughtful, profoundly compassionate sci-fi movie beautifully mixes realism with a sense of wonder. It keeps its mysteries at bay, and, amazingly, doesn't disappoint when all is revealed. French-Canadian director Denis Villeneuve (Prisoners, Enemy, Sicario) is becoming one of the best, smartest cinematic storytellers in the world, finding new ways to pull the camera back and observe, taking a little extra time to find emotions, and explore spaces and sounds (a chirping bird is especially poignant). The cinematography by Bradford Young (Selma) is breathtakingly mesmerizing, still and patient, without relying on action or adrenaline.
The long build-up to the meeting of the aliens in Arrival is as wondrous and breathless as anything the movies have conjured up recently. Most films that begin with mysteries eventually give up everything, and invariably too soon, resulting in an anticlimax. But, as written by Eric Heisserer (Lights Out), and based on a short story by Ted Chiang, the puzzles and the thought-provoking solutions in Arrival only enrich the movie's transcendent quality; we're left with satisfying answers, but also fantastic questions.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.