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Dr Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) was recruited for a space mission due to her technical expertise, not her experience as an astronaut. Nervous and jittery during a spacewalk, she’s hardly reassured by the smooth patter of veteran Matt Kowalski (George Clooney), who’s up there with her. Then the unthinkable happens. Debris from a demolished Russian satellite comes hurtling towards them, and the two are cut loose both from the space station and from communications down below.
Spinning through the void, attached to one another only by a thin cord, survival seems impossible for Stone and Kowalski. Is there any way they can reach the distant Russian station, and find a way back down to Earth?
- Did you enjoy the film, and why or why not? Which scenes were particularly striking or memorable?
- Gravity uses a range of ground-breaking visual techniques to transport us into outer space. How convincing did you find the film’s visuals, and what most impressed you about them? What might be some of the pitfalls in making heavy use of special effects in a film, and in your view, to what extent does Gravity avoid these pitfalls?
- Some critics described Gravity as a ‘physical’ or ‘visceral’ experience. What physical reaction did you have to the film, and why? What role did the use of sound and silence play in this?
- To what extent did you find Gravity an emotional experience as well as a visual one? What – if anything – enabled you to engage emotionally with the characters in the midst of everything that was happening? Why, if at all, is emotional engagement important in a story like this?
- How would you describe Dr Stone’s emotional journey over the course of the film? How do the setting, and the events of the story, help to communicate her emotions on a symbolic level? What are her motives throughout, and what are the major turning points for her as a character?
- What kind of space story is Gravity, and how does its portrait of space and space travel compare with that of other films? What does outer space represent to us as a culture, and to the human race generally?
‘Is Gravity very deep or very shallow? Neither.’ – Critic Peter Bradshaw
- Do you think Gravity is a deep or a shallow film, and why? Is it possible for an artwork to be both simultaneously? What intellectual ideas – if any – does the film explore, and how necessary is an intellectual dimension in this kind of film?
- What messages might Gravity carry about the human presence in space, and the way we’ve handled our responsibilities there? What moral challenges are presented as human beings go about exploring beyond the earth’s atmosphere, and how should we meet these challenges?
‘It seems to me that almost all movies that boast a new world of special effects end up employing those effects to produce wild displays of massive destruction . . . demanding we cower in traumatized submission.’ – Critic Jeffrey Overstreet
- To what extent do you agree with the above criticism of Gravity? Can you think of any other films which have used advances in special effects technology to ‘produce wild displays of massive destruction’, and what – if anything – is problematic about this?
- What does Gravity have to say about isolation and the importance of connection? Why does Dr Stone try to isolate herself, and what do we lose when we withdraw from relationships? What does true connection with others look like?
- How does the film explore ideas around grief and death? What does it suggest about the possibility of an afterlife, and what do you make of these suggestions? Is it possible to know whether there’s an afterlife, or what it might be like?
- In what sense does Stone experience a spiritual rebirth over the course of Gravity? What kind of presence does God have in the film, and why might outer space be a particularly pertinent place to explore the idea of God? How did you respond to the film’s spiritual dimension, and how – if at all – does the sight of earth from space inspire you to spiritual reflection?