Gravity is one small step for movies and one giant leap for women in film. I didn’t realize it until later, which makes it all the better, but it’s a victory. When she swims to shore on the lake and she is able to stand the camera pans her body from toes to head. It is not a male gaze. We view her like we view the David statue–a symbol of strength, survival, confidence. We look at her as a symbol of all humanity, as if she’s the only one on earth. She’s overcome all. She’s the hero. She just happens to be a woman. It’s like an accidental femanist movie.
But like all heros Ryan has tragic flaw–her lonely life. Accomplished as she might be, she’s alone in life. In the world she chooses it, in space she does not. She’s the lone ranger, the lonely hero. She says no one will morn her death.
This loneliness comes to a climax when she loses fuel and realizes that she will die. This is a long take and such a well-done scene. As Ryan has to face her death, we are uncomfortable right along with her.
While some might see this as a humanist movie of survival, I take away a deep sense that life is a miracle and the world was created for life, unlike anything else in the universe. We earthlings are surrounded by dark voids, chunks of ice and rock and extreme temperatures inhospitable and incapable of sustaining life. What is this lush blue planet doing in the middle of all of that nonsensical chaos out there? I think I know. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure. And why aren’t we taking better care of it? We should be more thankful for air and atmosphere and our amazing human bodies wonderfully suited to our beautifully-designed earthly home and yes, the gravity that keeps us from floating away.
When Ryan gets into the International Space Station she takes off her space suit. She’s wearing only a tank top and boy short spandex (Yes, I know about the diaper…it’s called artistic license, people). We see her flesh and bones and hair, the organic beauty of her form. It contrasts all we’ve seen so far in the movie–a pallate of metalics, whites and blacks, faces obscured behind helmets. She’s in color. She’s has life. The camera stays put there for a while. We are meant to quietly wonder at this human being the way we do watching an ultrasound of a baby in its mother’s womb.