In the typical world of TV science fiction, aliens are usually humanoid, about our height, with human emotions, and even conveniently speak our language. This Star Trek type alien, necessarily humanized for quick 40 minute episodes, is definitely not what you find in The Arrival. The extraterrestrials are so different in appearance and language that communication seems impossible.
This is one of the major pluses about this movie. It foregoes this over-used motif and presents the viewer with an other-than-us life form, something we have to struggle to comprehend, as do the characters who attempt to unlock the language of the visitors. But before the serious questions can be asked such as why are they here, are they friendly, where they come from, etc., we must participate in the characters' own confusion and helplessness as they, piece by piece, make progress towards answering those questions.
Louise (Amy Adams) is the genius who has a gift for learning languages. She and Ian (Jeremy Renner) interact with the aliens on their spaceship and work through clues that open up the alien language. But there's a twist, the aliens means of communication is not linear. And, it turns out, neither is their view of time. Their language is "nonlinear orthography," that appears in what can only be described as circular Rorschach blots.
With the appearance of the aliens all over the planet in 12 separate ships, mankind is notably stressed. Stock markets plunge, mobs form, looting occurs, and as is often the case with the military in movies like this, our weapons are hammers and the aliens are nails.
Louise gradually understands more and more of the nonlinear based communication of the aliens, but experiences it in a way that brings her whole existence into view, along with experiencing once again the life and death of her daughter.
The Arrival is a good movie, definitely worth watching. There is no sexuality, minimal violence, and the language is pretty subdued as far as cussing goes.
As a science fiction fan, I thoroughly enjoyed it.
However, there's one last comment. The ending is rather interesting. You will have to pay attention in order to get it.