A message posted to Twitter earlier today: “I’m thinking tonight should be a movie night. Been wanting to see Gravity. Anybody interested in joining me?”

It doesn’t seem like much, just one more social invitation in a digital world that is already overflowing with events, shares, likes, and retweets. And yet it was also something else; to me, it was the attempt to continue a small, personal tradition that had gone unbroken for as long as I can remember. That tradition was this: I never go to the movie theater alone.

I’ve gone to restaurants alone. Bars. Museums. Hikes. Motorcycle rides. So many things. I am an introvert, no matter what my ability to be both loud and gregarious may indicate otherwise. Being alone is my preference most of the time. It’s easier to think when you’re alone.

Movies, however.

There was something about going to the movies that seemed to me a requirement that it be a social event. Part of it was habit; I have a little brother, which means that until a certain age, you always go to the movies with somebody else. Later on, it was one girlfriend or another, because going to movies was what one did on dates, especially in the age before legal drinking was an option.

Even after that, there are so many movies that encourage going with friends. With a comedy, it’s practically a requirement, but even a good epic sci fi or fantasy film is better when viewed with a friend.

I think it was the social component of going to a movie that made it different than watching a DVD. After the movie, there was drinks at a nearby pub or bar. There was a discussion of the movie, assuming it had enough content worth discussing. If not, there was other discussion.

My tweet was an attempt to continue a tradition. It didn’t work. If tonight was to be a “movie night” and not a “Netflix-or-Red-Box” night, I would be breaking my little streak and going it solo.

I’m glad that I did.

Gravity is a movie about being alone. It’s a movie about the powerful inexorability of the most fundamental forces of life and how they absolutely do not give a shit about our existence. Momentum doesn’t care about us. Newton’s laws don’t care about us. You get the idea. Human desire and will doesn’t matter. In space, there is only the ironclad certainty of physics.

Unless (tiny spoiler warning) you’re clever enough to bring Chekov’s gun, or in this case, Chekov’s fire extinguisher. Then you can argue with physics a little bit.

Gravity is a beautiful movie. It may or may not be a satisfyingly feminist movie; our heroine requires rescue early on, although by the end, she’s taking care of herself. It didn’t feel particularly patriarchal to me. It felt real. Others may disagree, which is fair.

More than anything, though, Gravity is a movie about being alone. Alone in space. Alone, helpless, adrift. Sometimes life feels that way, too. Not always, but sometimes.

This is a movie to see by yourself. It’s a movie that you should think about on your way back to the car. On your drive home, without music or cell phone. It’s almost impossible to find silence in today’s world and yet silence is as much the core of Gravity’s theme as solitude and desolation are.

Gravity doesn’t lend itself well to a rousing post-theater discussion over beers at the bar. It’s a movie that needs time to think and reflect: on life, on the laws of the universe, and on being alone.

Is it worth seeing?

Yes, I believe it absolutely is, although keep in mind this endorsement is coming from a guy who loves 127 Hours and gets choked up on almost any survival story. In my opinion, however, it’s worth your time, though, and your consideration.

See it by yourself, if you can. I think it’ll be better that way. And if you feel the need to talk about it, as I do, maybe write it down. Even if it’s a blog post, writing is still the most lonely form of communication we have. For this, I think that’s fitting.

2 thoughts on “Gravity

  1. As someone who has thought a lot about the solo movie experience I have to weigh in. Up until last year, I always went to the movies with someone (usually a girl, although every so often a movie lends itself to the need to go with a dude if it has Bond in the title). I went to the cheap seats to see “Dark Shadows” alone and fretted in the parking lot for like 20 minutes about going home until I finally did it. I wound up seeing 3 movies alone and loved it. It’s a solitary, isolating experience and is no different than popping on Netflix or a DVD at home: except we are in public and are high self aware of being seen alone or with someone. In the end I realize it doesn’t matter. Of course, this year I have only been to one movie alone (at the Loft, where people seem to be alone all the time). However this post has made me decide I will catch Gravity as soon as it pops into the $2 theater by my house and I will absolutely catch it alone. Perhaps seeing films solo is a good thing, though of course the natural urge after is to talk about immediately. Perhaps I can sneak someone in on Skype to watch it with me…..

    1. Skype watching with somebody might add to the ambiance, actually. It’d certainly reinforce the feeling of distance in communication, since so much of the dialogue comes from the astronauts talking to Houston over their radios.

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