Robin Solsjö Höglund’s review published on Letterboxd:
That was..how best to describe it? I don't think I've ever seen a film about language and communication convey so little.
Louise is a linguist in Montana who discovers that twelve large spaceships have landed across planet Earth. She is hired by the government to help translate their messages and establish communication with them.
I knew the basic premise of this going in, but had no idea what it would be like or how it all ends. It's such a bizarre experience, so incredibly abstract. It has been praised for being incredibly dramatic and emotional, and I found it to be just the opposite - disjointed, full of flash and very little substance. It's so busy appearing to be intellectual and meaningful that it almost loses the actual content along the way, and feels more like a surreal, broken poem than a really good book full of text and subtext. Also, the greatest linguist in the world basically goes "ME JANE, YOU TARZAN"?
The film has interesting visual and auditory moments, but it's almost as though the longer it goes on, the more it becomes fuzzy and emotional, when it should be getting more riveting and interesting.
The cinematography is an equally frustrating part, because even though it has good photography, the soft "no-contrast" look means you can hardly appreciate the shots and sometimes barely even make out which actors you're looking at. I know it's a style, the drama/arthouse/anti-Michael Bay "look, we're so sophisticated and classy"-approach, but it has its limits.
Arrival should be a revelation. If anything it just gets absolutely lost and loses touch, and I felt it was more pretentious and emotionally pandering than riveting and clever. It's kind of like a fuzzy poetry read in some misty field, not a challenging or rewarding film in any regard. It doesn't even warrant a rewatch, because the beginning and ending so blatantly smashes you with its whole mushy act and basic idea.
And I recommend watching it with subtitles, as some plot points (that are irrelevant but interesting to know) are spoken in foreign languages.