This is an article on the symbolism and themes in Gravity.
- There is an obvious rebirth metaphor where Ryan gets into an airlock and curls into the fetal position while the parachute chord floats near her. Others have interpreted this as a strong nod to 2001: A Space Odyssey's "starchild" scene.
- Despite being set in outer space, the film draws upon motifs from shipwreck and wilderness survival stories about psychological change and resilience in the aftermath of catastrophe. Cuarón uses Stone to illustrate clarity of mind, persistence, training, and improvisation in the face of isolation and the mortal consequences of a relentless Murphy's Law.
- Dr. Stone hums "Daisy Bell" to herself while untangling the parachute from the Zvezda Module.
- The adversity Ryan Stone faces in the film is said by director Alfonso Cuarón as a metaphor for the problems we all face.
- All the shots of Earth are to remind us where we come from.
- When Stone tumbles into the void it symbolizes the darkness in our lives and how it can consume us.
- The film incorporates spiritual themes both in terms of Ryan's daughter's accidental death, the will to survive in the face of overwhelming odds, as well as the impossibility of rescue. Calamities unfold but there are no witnesses to them, save for the surviving astronauts. The impact of scenes is heightened by alternating between objective and subjective perspectives, the warm face of the planet and the depths of dark space, the chaos but also predictability of the deadly debris field, and silence of the vacuum of space with the sound of the score. The film uses very long and uninterrupted shots throughout to draw the audience into the action but also contrasts these with claustrophobic shots within space suits and capsules. Some commentators have noted religious themes in the film. For instance, Catholic author Fr. Robert Barron summarizes the tension between Gravity's technology and religious symbolism, "The technology which this film legitimately celebrates... can’t save us, and it can’t provide the means by which we establish real contact with each other. The Ganges in the sun, the St. Christopher icon, the statue of Budai, and above all, a visit from a denizen of heaven, signal that there is a dimension of reality that lies beyond what technology can master or access... the reality of God".
- Human evolution and the resilience of life can also be seen as a key theme of the movie. The movie opens with the hitherto climax of human civilisation, the exploration of space, and ends with an allegory to the dawn of mankind, when Dr. Ryan Stone (Bullock) fights her way out of the ocean after the crash-landing, passing an amphibian, grabbing the soil of the shore and slowly regaining her capacity to stand upright and walk. In an interview director Cuarón notes: "She’s in these murky waters almost like an amniotic fluid or a primordial soup. In which you see amphibians swimming. She crawls out of the water, not unlike early creatures in evolution. And then she goes on all fours. And after going on all fours she’s a bit curved until she is completely erect. It was the evolution of life in one, quick shot". Other imagery depicting the formation of life include a scene in which Dr. Ryan Stone rests in the position of an embryo, surrounded with a rope strongly resembling an umbilical. Dr. Ryan Stone's return from space, accompanied by meteorite-like debris, may be seen as a hint that elements essential to the development of life on earth may have come from outer space in form of meteorites.
- Shariff Dasari mentions that Houston shouldn't be anxious. In a way, this is a theme of the movie. Ryan Stone is angry about her daughter's death and by moving on with that, she is at peace with herself. Also Ryan mentions that her daughter was worried about her red shoe that she lost, only to find it under the bed. This symbolizes that most problems shouldn't be worried about when you can just move on or solve them later.