I want to zero in on two sides of dialogue. The first is the beginning V.O. narration of Louise’s life with Hannah. Here it is in its entirety:
“Memory is a strange thing. It doesn’t work like I thought it did. We are so bound by time; by its order. Maybe there’s a higher order. I used to think this was the beginning of your story. I remember moments in the middle. And this was the end. But now I’m not quite sure I believe in beginnings and endings. There are days that define your story beyond your life. Like the day they arrived.”
If you read those lines AFTER you’ve seen the movie and understand the meaning of the Big Twist at the end, these words take on multiple levels of meaning. “I’m not quite sure I believe in beginnings and endings.” That derives from her experience of time as they aliens know it: It all happens at once, the present is synonymous with past and future, it all happens in the now.
In a very practical manner of speaking, what screenwriter Heisserer has done is in setting up the story with the prologue, he has provided a narrative feint, setting us up to believe what we’ve been seeing are a series of memories. But the dialogue, while seeming to be in sync with those images, is actually tipping us off to what the story means and the Big Twist itself.
The other side of dialogue is this:
“Yes.” It’s the last word in the script. It is Louise accepting the future she has seen foretold via the ‘memories’ instilled in her by the aliens. Knowing Hannah’s eventual fate. Knowing the fate of her marriage. And choosing to live that life regardless. That the abundance of life with Hannah, even for the abbreviated time she would be alive, was worth it. To Hannah. And to Louise.
Has there ever been a more powerful use of that word in movies?