When I first saw the trailer for this movie, I was intrigued. Truth be told, I was intrigued by the premise itself. Here was a story about being trapped in space that did not seem to involve murderous aliens or a government conspiracy. It really was just about two people stuck on a ship that malfunctioned. Ordinary folk caught up in something bigger than themselves.
There was a lot of criticism of this story, mostly of the nature of the relationship of the two leads. As an audience, we are led to believe that the main characters have fallen in love, but our Earth-minded sensibilities keep us from appreciating the enormity of the situation and how unusual it would be.
Short synopsis: A man wakes up prematurely from cryogenic hibernation aboard a ship on autopilot toward a colony on a planet. The reasons why are unknown to him, but he has woken up 90 years too early, and he is entirely alone. He is a mechanic by trade, not an engineer or anyone with any training on how to run the ship. He doesn’t even have access to first-class meals, let alone working areas of the ship that would normally be manned by the crew. His only company is a robot bartender. After a year, after much agonizing over the decision, he wakes up a woman whom he has fallen for from reading her work and watching videos of her from the ships database. She eventually falls in love with him over the course of the following year. Meanwhile, the ship continues to decline and they have to figure out how to save themselves, but this takes a backseat to their relationship, especially when the woman discovers that she was woken up on purpose.
I found the story surprisingly plausible. When you are trapped alone with the prospect of never interacting with another living human being for the rest of your life, you would not think rationally. Humans are social creatures. It is only natural that the man would wake up someone else. It was an entirely selfish act, but he is shown both agonizing over it and then being repentant. The woman also had the choice to fall in love with him or not – even if it was heavily guided by loneliness and biology. Two people alone on a spaceship is not a normal situation, and thus normal rules are insufficient to analyse it.
More importantly, the characters are also symbolic of humanity as a whole. We do not get to choose who we are stuck with on our planet. Our rational choices are checked by our instincts and desires. We are not experts in how to fix our planet, but we have to try. We also have to trust our experts, even if they seems to treat us with disdain or confusion, or if they do not have all of the answers either.
I have heard the analogy that we are all crewmembers on our planet, but we are also all passengers. We like to think of ourselves as insignificant and ordinary – we would rather focus on our families, work, sports, celebrities, etc. We think we can do nothing and so thus we should not try. We only have one life to live, but we can do a lot with it.
Forgiveness is a central theme of the film. The man needs to forgive the ship (and the company that owns it as well as the crew) for waking him up too early; the woman needs to forgive the man for waking her up to join him. They need to forgive because they cannot continue to co-exist otherwise, no matter if one believes in forgiveness being good for the soul. Contempt and hatred won’t save the ship, nor make the stay on the ship pleasant.
There is so much more to this movie than simply a disturbing pretext for a romance!