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Roxane B. Salonen, Published November 29 2013

Living Faith: 'Gravity' has more depth than just space

It’s hard to find movies that leave me feeling satisfied, like I’ve come away with something meaningful. But a recent film moved me.

By now, many have seen the 3-D hit, “Gravity,” starring Sandra Bullock as medical engineer Dr. Ryan Stone and George Clooney as veteran astronaut Matt Kowalsky.

The two are part of a shuttle mission and out on a seemingly routine spacewalk when disaster strikes.

(If you have yet to see “Gravity,” you might want to avert your eyes for the rest of this column and return later.)

The first casualty is discovered right off, with others on the crew also found dead. Stone and Kowalsky are the only survivors, alone in, as one description says, “…the infinite and unforgiving realm of deep space.”

When communication with Earth fails, they have to rely solely on one another to navigate the treacherous environment.

Eventually, only Stone, a space novice, is left. The film becomes a one-actor movie, and we get to know the character fairly intensely as she faces probable death.

Trying desperately to get in touch with the control center by radio, through the AM band, she instead reaches the home of someone whose language she doesn’t speak. Hearing a baby crying and a dog barking in the background, she smiles while apparently thinking on all she’s loved about life but may never again experience.

The next scene is very evocative as Stone begins mimicking the bark, which quickly turns into a howl, which drudges up emotions that turn into gut-wrenching tears.

It might sound ridiculous as I describe it, but as it played out, even before she reached the tear stage, the character’s howls were so real to me that I’m pretty sure I emitted a tear before she did.

I’m a huge sap, though, so bear that in mind.

So she’s crying, and I’m crying, and remember, she’s in zero-gravity. Just before the first tear popped, I remember thinking, what happens if you cry in space? Sure enough, the droplets begin floating, and one in particular drifts close to the camera, in a sphere-shape so reflective you can almost see another world inside it.

Fully awakened now to her chances of getting home alive, Stone says in disbelief, “This is the day I’m going to die.”

The aphorism, “There are no atheists in foxholes,” comes to mind as we see the character facing death, and considering the reality of God, in part by her asking if anyone out there would say a prayer for her. She’d pray herself, but no one ever taught her how, she says.

It’s a beautiful moment of her recognizing her smallness, and God’s bigness, and bending to that reality.

Her desire alone, however, seems a sort of prayer, and a short while later, she finds within herself a new charge to get home, which, amazingly, she does.

In the final scene, while watching her grope along on her belly in water-soaked sand, having just reached land after being dumped in the ocean, I began asking myself, “So why did she make it and the others didn’t?”

Even if this were a true story, no one would be able to answer that question. We see it all the time. Some people succumb to a disease that has reached a whole community, while others live on. A typhoon hits and many die, but others come out unscathed.

Who is this God who picks and chooses in what seems such a random manner?

We cannot know in this life the answer to that. Some of us reach old age, and others go earlier. Maybe those who remain have too much yet to learn.

All we know for sure, as Stone utters in the film, is “We are all going to die.” That’s the most certain pronouncement anyone can make.

Given that, it seems there’s no reason to not be grateful for each day, and, as another saying goes, “Live like we’re dying,” because we are, after all.

Even when we believe in another life, this is the one we have right now. And what we do now affects how things play out later.

“Gravity” has me thinking on this. The film has me in awe again over the vast and amazing world God has created, and the plans for my life I have yet to complete. And it has me determined to keep looking to fulfill my part while I still can.

Roxane B. Salonen is a freelance writer who lives in Fargo with her husband and five children. If you have a story of faith to share with her, email roxanebsalonen@gmail.com