Analysis of Resilience in All is Lost and in Gravity

Two current films that both center around the theme of resilience are Gravity and All is Lost.  Both films have limited dialogue and a limited number of characters.  Gravity has barely two and Lost has one. Gravity involves an astronaut who is in the fight of her life for survival.  The situation is grave, and it is the lack of gravity that hinders her throughout the film. The astronaut, played by Sandra Bullock, has to decide whether she is willing to fight for survival or whether life is not meaningful enough to work through harrowing situations.  The astronaut endures a series of mishaps while despairing.  Her despair is evident early in the film narrative. Except at the commencement of the film, she has no one to exhort her to survive; however, with the help of her fellow astronaut, via a dream, she survives after landing in a body of water and swimming, thereafter, to the surface of the water.  The second film, Lost, also has a similar theme.

One cannot say that All is Lost is reminiscent of the silent film era because the score and a few words negate its characterization as a silent film.  Yet, this film depicts the true concept of acting when no dialogue is used.  This film, stars Robert Redford cast as a man whose name is “unknown.”  The film is told in flashback over a period of eight days.  This nameless man is both resilient and resourceful for he manages to survive at sea in the middle of the Indian Ocean with Madagascar as the nearest land mass.  This film is about ingenuity and survival in the face of great difficulty.  In the beginning of the movie, Unknown composes a letter presumably to his wife or another loved one apologizing for his lack of survival after his boat is severely damaged at sea by a barge or vessel.  At that point, the film flashes back to the beginning of this ordeal.  The man awakens to find that his boat has taken on water.  At that time the man engages in many acts of survival including hoisting himself at the top of the sail in an attempt to be noticed, sending out SOS signals, repairing the boat, ditching the boat that became more distressing to him, and inflating a raft that allows him a means of survival.  Despite all of his efforts for survival, his attempts at rescue go both unheard and unseen until he sets a massive fire in the inflatable raft so that his ship can be seen in distress.  He then jumps into the water because of the fire.  One then wonders whether he will survive in the ocean or succumb to the rough and vast current. At the end of the film, as Unknown is swimming back toward shore, a hand reaches down to help pull him out of the water.  At that point, the film ends.  In spite of unknown’s difficulties, one learns that all is not truly lost, for he survives amidst daunting circumstances.

The question to be asked and answered is what makes one both strong and resilient while others despair and capitulate.  Can these skills be taught?  If so, how do we teach them and should they be taught in conjunction with other attributes.  While analyzing All is Lost and Gravity, one can look at the resilience of both characters and examine possible reasons for their resolution for survival while applying the concept of resilience to humanity at large.

In both films, the major characters both realize that they have to lay aside every weight that entangles them,  In Lost, unknown ditches his boat because he sees it as an impediment to his survival.  Similarly, in gravity, the astronaut lets go of her original spacecraft because it is also a hindrance to her survival. Thus, there is a connection between letting go of weights and moving past life’s difficulties and its disappointments.  The first task is that one must recognize weights that hold him down.  The astronaut lost her young daughter.  As a result, she has not been able to move past this tragedy.  She feels as if she has little reason to live.  Thus, when she is in crisis, she is ready to quit fighting; however, her fellow astronaut exhorts her to look at her life so that she realizes that all is not lost (yes, we are still talking about Gravity.  The movie is about loss as well.) and that life is still worth living.

One of the best ways to develop resilience is to be exposed to tragedy, and while exposed to it, it helps to have a supportive person who functions in a hortatory capacity. That person can coach a person through the challenging time; however, if one never experiences difficulties, he will be stymied at the onset of a tragedy.  In Lost, there was no coach, but Unknown clearly had survival skills.  He knew how to employ many measures to ensure his survival.  In Gravity, the astronaut had her fellow astronaut appear in a dream. He helped her to become resilient.

In addition, one’s temperament also impacts one’s resilience.  Having a choleric or aggressive temperament, may help one become resilient as long as one’s anger does not impede his ability to work through the difficulty.  If one is of the melancholy temperament, resilience may be more difficult because of the  natural tendency to wallow in misery. In Gravity,  the astronaut may have had a melancholy temperament, but through encouragement, she rises above her mercurial nature.  In lost, Unknown appears to have  a choleric temperament.  He is extremely aggressive when working toward survival. His aggression is an asset.

Resilience is a necessary skill for emotional survival.  Both determination and perseverance are needed for resilience to occur.  In both films, the major characters had these attributes. These skills can be taught, but one must have supportive family and friends or must have varying degrees of tragedy to help survive future tragedies. The old adage is true: no pain, no gain.

All is Lost is highly recommended for its superb acting.  Gravity is a poor second when compared to Lost.  If it were not in Lost’s shadow, Gravity may have been worth seeing.

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