In the closing scenes of Arrival, we see events taking place long after the main timeline. There is a grand celebration where many of the key players are meeting.

Louise meets the Chinese General Shang who was, at one point, threatening to attack the aliens. He tells her that she called him on his personal number and this resulted in a rare event: he changed his mind. This was a crucial moment in stopping the movement to attack the aliens.

But Louise doesn't seem to remember the event or that she actually knew the number. Why not?

2 Answers 2


Because, by 'thinking' in the Alien language, Louise had begun to view reality from the Alien's perspective: and the Heptapods do not perceive time in a linear way. Louise was experiencing different moments in time concurrently.

This is almost-but-not-quite a bootstrap paradox, but it works because Louise's consciousness basically displaces itself into the future (this isn't completely accurate, but as a working example will suffice here). At that moment in the past, she was remembering her future, whilst experiencing it at the same time... she can experience all moments in her life simultaneously, meaning every moment is 'now'.

  • It is almost plausible as the movie itself plays with the audience's sense of time. But I still think she should remember her past actions in the memory of the future. Or this could all make as much logical sense as a Dr who plot. Perhaps that is why it is a great movie: no easy answers.
    – matt_black
    Nov 20, 2016 at 20:35
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    She does remember the call at the moment in time when that meeting actually occurs, but her reaction in the memory was meant to be her "present self," confused by what she was experiencing. Like a soliloquy in stage plays, the actor was doing something in the scene which only the audience was meant to be aware of. The "real future Lousie" wasn't confused. This is also why the General didn't react to her obvious confusion, but kept talking with her like nothing was wrong.
    – Steve-O
    Dec 5, 2016 at 15:22
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    @Steve-O And the General in the future has understood the new alien sense of time so he knows he has to tell Louise certain things so she can "remember" them in the past to alter his past decisions.
    – matt_black
    Jan 14, 2017 at 1:16
  • That is not possible. We know from the film that Louise, while still living in the "past" (which is her "present"), is able to retain in her memory her visions of the future. She, for instance, knows that she is going to have a child who will die prematurely form an incurable disease. That is, she had a vision of her future, and while still being in the "past", she has a memory of that vision. In addition, while making the call to the general, Louise was also communicating with Ian in her present. There is no plausible explanation why would this communication with Ian be erased from her memory Jul 26, 2017 at 5:48
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    A plot hole is something that has not been considered by the writers, an oversight. What you are describing is proposition of the film: an experience of time beyond comprehension, accessed through language. For me it draws parallels with Dr Manhattan of Watchmen. If you disagree with the logic (or perceived lack thereof) , it unfortunately does not qualify as 'a plot hole'. The plot is quite consciously subverting our human proposition of logic, not failing to address it. Jul 27, 2017 at 11:02

This apparently is just a plot hole. If people can not understand a film's logic, it does not necessarily mean that the film is too great, or the logic is too complex. In most cases it means that the film's logic is flawed, either because the writers were not smart enough to make it coherent, or sometimes it is contradictory by design to draw attention, provoke discussions, alternative interpretations and make it seem intricate, having hidden undertones.

One can foresee the future only if the future is completely immutable. If the future is mutable, then any events that follow the forecast may and most likely will change the future. In that case the forecast has absolutely no predictive value, since the real future will be completely different from the one that has been foreseen.

If the future is immutable, then there are only two options:

First option: people are completely deprived of free will, they can not choose neither their thoughts nor their actions. They are just compelled to think and to do only certain predetermined things, and they can only rationalize their thoughts and their actions and can only do it in one predetermined way. This view contradicts to everything that we know about ourselves.

Second option: people have free will and they can choose, but they always make one choice that at the moment seems the best for them based on the circumstances and the information that they have at the moment. In this case, if such a person starts foreseeing the future, he gets new information and he sees new options, and this changes the best choice for him. If you know that the plane is going to crash, your best choice is not to board that plane. And this would change the future, making it mutable, making it impossible to foresee.

Thus, one can not foresee the future, because by foreseeing it one would get a new information, and it would change his options, and that would change his choices, and that would change the future, so that what he had foreseen is never going to happen.

If we assume that there are two different timelines that exist in parallel, then for those timelines to arrive to the same future, they must proceed through exactly the same past, since the past triggers the future. That is, for Louise to have the conversation with the general in the future in both timelines, she had to call the general first in both of these timelines. And since she called in both timelines she must remember the call in both timelines, because that is how the memory works.

It is not a great film, it has some plot holes and a faulty logic, but you still can enjoy it if you suspend your disbelief.

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    Interesting philosophical discussion but totally fails to answer the question.
    – matt_black
    Jul 22, 2017 at 13:43

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