On the night of the discovery of a duplicate Earth in the Solar system, an ambitious young student and an accomplished composer cross paths in a tragic accident.
Directed by: Mike Cahill
. Starring: William Mapother
, Brit Marling
, Matthew-Lee Erlbach
, DJ Flava
, Meggan Lennon
, AJ Diana
, Bruce Colbert
, Paul Mezey
, Ana Valle
, Jeffrey Goldenberg
, Joseph A. Bove
, Jordan Baker
, Flint Beverage
. Music by: Will Bates
, Phil Mossman
, Fall On Your Sword
In science fiction, the idea of a "mirror" Earth is an old troupe. From various stories and novels to no less than 2 episodes of the original Star Trek, the "what if" scenario of a Earth just like ours, but yet a little different, is well mined. Nonetheless, director Mike Cahill and his co-screenwriter, Britt Marling, have used this concept as a backdrop to their film Another Earth, which, despite it's title and science fiction underpinnings, is actually a sobering drama about mistakes made and the infinite possibilities of the universe. Heady stuff, to be sure, and while Another Earth is hardly perfect, it eschews what you would normally expect from a film of it's title to deal with very down to Earth matters.
17 year old Rhoda Williams (Marling, engaging in double duty as writer and star), who is fascinated by astronomy, has just been accepted into MIT and has been celebrating at a party with friends. On her way home, drunk and distracted by the news on the radio of a second, Earth like planet that has appeared in the sky, causes an auto accident. In the second car is music professor John Burroughs (William Mapother), his pregnant wife and young son. Both the son and wife are killed in the accident, Burroughs ends up in a coma, and Rhoda spends the next four years in prison. After being released, she asks to be placed in a job that keeps her interaction with people to a minimum, and so ends up as a janitor at a local high school. Wracked with guilt at her part in the accident, she decides to visit Burroughs, who has turned to alcohol in the intervening years since awakening from his coma, but cannot bring herself to reveal the truth to him, and ends up pretending to be from a cleaning service and thus begins helping him put his home, and to some extent, his life back together.
In the time since the evening of the accident, the new planet has drawn closer to our Earth, and it is revealed to be an almost exact duplicate of Earth, with the same continents, and, as revealed on a news broadcast where radio transmission to the planet is attempted, possibly the exact same people. Rhoda, desperate to take hold of all that was lost from her participation in the accident, writes an essay to attempt to join the crew of the first planned expedition to the second Earth, while at the same time, her relationship with Burroughs, who does not know who she is, begins to grow.
Another Earth focuses its attention on Rhoda, who, in a moment of stupidity and selfishness, caused the irrevocable destruction of John Burroughs world as he knew it, and has been consumed by the results of her actions. Another Earth approaches her in a more realistic manner than many other dramas have, showing how that unfortunate mistake has transformed her world. Another Earth delves into her situation, affected by her guilt in her participation in the terrible tragedy and potentially unable to move on with her life. Another Earth delivers much of this often without long bouts of dialogue, relying largely on Marling's performance to deliver the emotional core of this character, and she proves up to the task. Marling unveils Rhoda to us through body language and sobering looks, and we can feel how so much of her was transformed that night. Another Earth doesn't specifically make us feel sorry for her, she accepts her responsibility in the tragedy, but it also does paint a picture of a human who, do to how society treats those who commit acts like this, even if accidental, seems to have fewer options available.
Burroughs, while not ignored, lacks the same degree of development, and we largely view him through Rhoda's gaze. He has crawled inside a bottle to salve his wounds and stayed there. When Rhoda enters his house, she seems to be the first significant human contact Burroughs has had in some time, and he opens up the closed gates of his world to her, first a little, but gradually much more. We can feel his pain and understand his helplessness as he continues on after so much has been taken from him, but he doesn't quite reach the same level of depth as Rhoda, however he is hardly a cipher.
If Another Earth missteps, it comes late in the film, where certain decisions are made that are arguably too manufactured, too melodramatic for this film that seems mostly interested in not working in the standard trumped up events of similar material, and while it certainly doesn't ruin Another Earth, it does seem a bit overdone, where a subtler, more realistic choice might have been better.
Against the story of these two characters, the revelation of the second Earth plays as a backdrop, but at key moments this plot thread delivers interesting material that allows Another Earth to move beyond the standard for a drama of this type. The idea of how this second Earth is similar, but also different, from our own is touched upon, but then becomes a greater piece of the narrative, allowing it to move in somewhat unique directions. Another Earth uses the science fiction conceit of the second Earth as a catalyst for story and character development, not as thin excuse to throw a bunch of special effects on the screen.
Another Earth is a small, somewhat slow piece that deals less in the fantastical nature of it's title and subplot, but more in the isolated world of two people who were changed by one terrible event. With Marling's strong performance and the film's focus on the characters and their coping with a horrible event, Another Earth proves to have it's aim set on a more precise and personal target than you might think.
Review by rparham from the Internet Movie Database.