‘Arrival’ Ending Explained

Arrival Ending Explained! Amy Adams Jeremy Renner Forest Whitaker

After a pretty confusing and whirlwind ending to Arrival, I thought a blog post explaining the ending and plot twist would be necessary – so here’s my Arrival ending explanation! I was genuinely surprised at some of the confusion there was at the ending/twist of the film. So, for those who need it, here is a brief discussion and explanation of the Arrival ending! Of course, this is very spoiler heavy!


Here’s ‘My Arrival Film Review‘ if you’re after something with fewer spoilers!

The Gift of Foresight

The ‘weapon’ the heptapods eventually gave Amy Adams was the gift of seeing into the future. The heptapods know that by helping the human race now, it will, in turn, help them in around 3,000 years time. By giving the gift to Amy Adams’s character specifically, they knew she would be able to see a time in her life where she would completely understand their alien language – we see that she would eventually publish a book. This means we would be able to successfully communicate with them in the present. Only Louise is given this gift as she is deemed to be the only human willing to listen – made obvious by the rest of the world declaring war!

Changing The General’s Mind

Also, with the Chinese army threatening to open fire on the spaceship parked in their backyard, Amy Adams is able to see future information that could prevent this attack. Through seeing a future encounter with General Chang, she is able to acquire highly personal information (his wife’s dying words) that will help her persuade him not to attack in the present. So through seeing events that are to come, Louise is able to save what is happening in the present. By having knowledge of the heptapods’ omnipresent view of time, she is able to prevent the army attack.

Arrival Ending Explained! Amy Adams Jeremy Renner Plot Twist

The Curse of the Gift

However, with the ability to see the future, Louise is able to see the unfortunate death of her daughter, which is shown at the start of the film. She sees the pain that is to come and warns Ian (Jeremy Renner) of what will happen. It seems as though he is unable to cope with the situation and leaves Louise and their daughter.

The small scenes that include Louise and Ian’s daughter are filled with clues that these scenes are taking place after the events of the ‘alien invasion’. During the film, we are unaware that physicist Ian is the father, although Louise constantly refers to the fact that ‘Dad is the scientist’. Also, the daughter’s drawing shows ‘Mummy and Daddy talking to animals on the TV’ which also features the bird in a cage that they took in to meet the heptapods. There are also a few shots of a plasticine heptapod that makes an appearance a few times.

Arrival Ending Explained! Amy Adams Sci-Fi Jeremy Renner

Flash Forwards & Flashbacks

During the film, we believe we are seeing flashbacks Hannah’s life at the start of the film, but it is actually flash forwards. We see Louise’s life from her newfound timeless perspective that actually show the future life with her daughter. It is this reason that we see hints about Louise and Ian’s encounters with the heptapods – the drawing of Mum and Dad with the bird cage. We also learn that despite knowing the future separation with Ian and Hannah’s passing, Louise decides to give her daughter the life she wouldn’t otherwise have.

“Life should be a journey, not a destination”

The concluding message shows that for Louise, it is better to let her daughter have a perfect, short life than no life at all. It shows how lie should be enjoyed for its moments, and how we should treasure the good ones no matter when they happen. The timeline of the story doesn’t matter as much, the fact that Louise spent as much time with her daughter as she did is what matters.

There is some focus on Hannah’s name being a palindrome shows that the story can work both ways and, in this case, the specific time placement doesn’t actually matter. We shouldn’t focus on the start or the end, but the good times that happen in between. It doesn’t matter when these beautiful moments happen, is it simply that they are allowed to happen at all.


So, that’s my attempt at clarifying the ending plot twist of Arrival. Does that make it clearer? Have I missed any vital clues, or, dare I say it… got it wrong? Let me know in the comments below!

3 responses to “‘Arrival’ Ending Explained

  1. Pingback: My ‘Arrival’ Film Review | Sollie Reviews·

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