The trailer to this film really caught my eye and stood out like very few films do. And while some are quiet engaging and interesting, this was gripping and instantly pulled me in. It soon became apparent that George Clooney and Sandra bullock were in the film. After watching it, I mentioned the film to a few friends and decided that I was going to see it. So it could be said that my expectations were high and I thought I was in for something special.
However, after watching the film, I thought that it didn’t live up to the expectations that I had formed in my mind. Visually the film was incredible and with the added 3D, I felt as though I was in space. But other than that, the story didn’t compare to how the film looked.
On my way home from the cinema I was reflecting on how the film didn’t have the impact that I was expecting and then after a short while, certain patterns and meanings began to emerge. So based on these patterns and meanings, I would say that that film is a metaphor for letting go. Which is interesting, as the tagline is ’Don’t Let Go’.
These psychological aspects and metaphors of the film are my personal view and are based on my own interpretation of what these metaphors and psychological aspects are and there meaning. They are in no way the right or only interpretation, they are just my view.
This will mean that I will miss out certain parts and only describe what stood out for me and what I felt was significant. There will also be parts that I didn’t understand and that will also be a reason as to why it has not been mentioned. This will also mean that it will not be like a story board and that I won’t be describing the whole story.
So with the disclaimer of sorts out of the way, let’s begin.
Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) is on her first mission in space and Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) has been there many times before. When they arrive in, they are soon called upon to service the Hubble Space Telescope. And everything seems to be going to plan at this point, even though Matt has said that something doesn’t feel right about the mission.
Before long, mission control informs them that a missile strike has taken place on an old Russian space station that is no longer in use. And this action has created a lot of debris that will soon be heading in their direction. They are told to abort the mission by mission control, but at that point it is too late.
All communication with mission control is lost and the explorer and stone are struck by debris. This is bound to have been a traumatising moment for stone. Matt is soon at hand to rescue her and brings her back to the space shuttle. At this point we get the first sign of Ryan being unable to let go. She continues to work on the Hubble Space Telescope even after she has been told to stop and if she had stopped straight away she might have avoided being struck by the debris.
International Space Station
The rest of the crew are no longer alive and the space ship is no longer usable, so they make their way to the international space station. And it is here that we begin to find out about Ryan’s traumatic past. Matt asks her about her life back home and Ryan talks about her daughter who died.
From how Ryan talks about the death of her daughter and her life back home, it becomes clear that she has more or less lost the will to live. And she doesn’t appear to have anything worth going back for, other than her job.
So while Ryan is never going to fully move on from the loss off her daughter, it appears that she hasn’t had the chance to grieve what took place. And as a result of this, she has become emotionally stuck.
The current trauma of being struck by debris in space and potentially being stuck there is yet another situation that is testing her will to live. Ultimately, this whole scenario has reminded her of how she feels about her life on earth.
When it comes to self reflection and gaining a difference perspective, one need’s to remove themselves from the situation or to do something else. And trough Ryan leaving earth, it has meant she has removed herself completely and is now able to look at her life from a new angle
Taken literally, Matt is astronaut and the only other person left, what he could also be is her higher self. And this other part of her, is trying to assist her in moving beyond her current position of being stuck.
When they arrive at the international space station they see that one module has been used and the other is no longer useable. This is because the parachute has been released and therefore it is not safe to use. Matt says that they can travel to the nearby Chinese space station and use one of their modules to return to earth.
As they have run out of air and the power needed to move in space, they try to hold onto the international space station. But Ryan’s legs get caught up in the parachutes cords and then she grabs a cord from Matt’s suite. Matt tells her to let go or neither of them will survive.
It is at this moment that letting go comes to the forefront, when Matt says ‘you have to learn to let go’. The literal meaning is that Ryan needs to let go in order for one of them to survive. But to take this meaning a litter deeper and as a metaphor, matt could be talking about Ryan’s need to let go of the pain that is keeping her stuck in the past.
And not that Ryan is being told to forget her daughter, as that would be impossible for any mother to do. What he means is that she can’t let it define her whole life. As Ryan is attached to her pain, she can’t see any other way and Matt offers her another way of looking at her whole life.
So once again, he is a metaphor for her higher self or the universe. From his place of awareness, letting go is fine and doesn’t offer any problems. But as Ryan is still holding onto the pain of losing her daughter, to let go Matt would only remind of what she has already lost. And she has lost a lot.
Matt floats away and while he does, he continues to speak to Ryan and his temperament doesn’t change either. He is still calm and assured and acts as if nothing is troubling him.
Ryan enters the international space station but as a fire breaks out, she soon has to make her way to the Chinese space station. And once again a parachute is causing problems, this time it is stopping the capsule from moving away.
So she has to get out and release each part of the parachute. Just after Ryan does this, the debris destroys the station. Parachutes allow one to gradually fall to the ground, so this doesn’t happen to fast and it’s not too slow either.
It is a form of letting go and one that takes place naturally. And up until his point, two parachutes’ have stopped Ryan from going forward. They are doing the opposite of what they are designed for.
This is a message for Ryan and shows her how difficult life can become by holding on. And as she has held onto the pain from her daughter for so long, she probably doesn’t realise how many problems this is causing her. It has just become part of her life now and a life that has become a burden.
There is yet more bad news as the capsule has run out of fuel. And Ryan shuts down the air support inside the cabin and then waits until she naturally passes on. But out of nowhere, Matt opens the door and enters the capsule.
He gives Ryan encouragement and tells her that there is still some fuel left in the craft. It then becomes clear that she was hallucinating and soon becomes conscious again. In the literal sense she was losing her consciousness and there not much more to it.
To look at this another way, shows that a part of her was still aware and spoke through a familiar face. And Matt was the person that appeared in her mind and became her higher power or inner voice.
When Ryan gets to the Chinese space station she can’t attach to it and so leaves the craft and uses a fire extinguisher to push herself back to the station. The station soon starts to dismantle and before long, Ryan is on her way back down to earth in a capsule.
This moment is a rebirth for Ryan. In normal circumstances, the only way that people would leave the earth is through death. And in this case, Ryan has left the earth and come back; without physically dying or being born again.
What has taken place here is a mental and emotional rebirth and the chance for her to live life free from all the baggage that was taken up to space. And when she walks onto land, it is a sign that she is taking her first steps on earth once more.
Literally, the film is primarily about a group of astronauts who go into space and while one makes it, the others don’t. One of them manages to cope with the challenges that they are faced with and returns to earth. And while all this takes place, the story is partly brought to life by an astronaut who is still suffering from the loss of her young daughter. And although time has passed, her will to live has been challenged ever since.
And while this description is relevant and covers the basic gist of the film, to look at it a different way reveals so much more. It shows that the film is also about the importance of letting go and what can happen when this take occur. When it doesn’t happen, one can become stuck in life and unable to move forward. And when this happens, one can start to fear moving on and being stuck becomes a way of life.
Sometimes this can relate to the loss of a loved one and at others times it can be the end of a relationship or a pet passing on for instance, but no matter what it is, there is likely to be a period of grief and a sense that something has been lost.
This can be a case of letting go over time and letting this process takes its natural course. And yet at other times, some kind of assistance can be required to enable one to process their feelings and to gradually move on. Letting go is rarely something that one does with heir mind and more often something they do with their emotional body.
The mind can try to avoid this process and move on too fast as a way to avoid the pain. And yet the emotional body does things in its own time and can’t be forced. If one doesn’t feel safe enough to feel their feelings they can end up staying stuck and this is why a therapist or a healer can play an important role in one letting go.
Oliver JR Cooper
Author of 25 books, Transformational Writer, Teacher & Consultant.
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That which is contained within these articles is based on my own empirical understanding and is true for me at the time they were written. However, as I continue to grow, what I perceive as the truth will inevitably change and as a result of this - parts of these articles may not reflect my current outlook.