19 April 2024

Review: Another Earth

There is something about the premise of Another Earth which is immediately appealing. What would be the implications, both personally and to the whole of society, if another planet suddenly appeared in the sky, a planet identical to our own? It is hard not to be drawn to the potential of this idea, and this film, co-written by the film’s director Mike Cahill and its star Brit Marling, takes a more intimate approach to the original concept, deciding to tell the story through a limited number of characters, and focusing on an intimate storyline.

As the film starts, we meet Rhoda Williams, a promising young woman about to set off to college, with her entire life before her. However, one night she gets involved in a car crash which she accidentally causes, leaving a man in a coma and killing his wife and his son. Rhoda is sent to prison, where she stays for four years, during which time a strange phenomenon occurs in the Earth’s sky, as a pale blue dot grows larger and larger until it becomes several times the size of our moon, revealing itself to be identical to our own planet.

By the time of Rhoda’s release, all the plans she had before her imprisonment have been abandoned, and she wants nothing more than to live a quiet, almost penitent life. She moves back to her family home and gets a job as a janitor in the local high-school, but Rhoda is fascinated by the celestial body taking up most of the sky, simply referred to as Earth 2, especially when it is revealed that not only is it a replica of our own planet, but it is inhabited by identical versions of ourselves.

In the meantime Rhoda feels the need to visit the man whose family died in the accident she caused. She discovers he is John Burroughs (played by William Mapother), formerly a successful composer whose life fell apart after the accident. Keeping her real identity and motivations a secret, Rhoda offers John her services as a cleaner, and over the following weeks their relationship develops, under the shadow of a terrible secret.

It is then that, unexpectedly, an opportunity arises for Rhoda to escape her life and go to Earth 2, a decision which will force her to deal with the mistakes of her past, and rethink the new life that she has built.

Another Earth is a powerful film, and despite its limited budget, there is an obvious love and dedication from everyone involved in its making, with mostly strong performances throughout. Additionally, the striking and iconic image at its core, that of this other Earth in the sky above our heads, will automatically make it a cult classic. However, for all its grand ambitions and plans, the film narratively falls short of the many philosophical questions it could potentially raise, too often falling into the realm of soppy indie melodrama. And while it is still a good film, it disappoints by the sheer fact that in never achieves the greatness that its concept truly deserves. Another Earth is director Mike Cahill’s first film, and this shows in the way that he wishes to include so many ideas, not only narratively but in terms of characterisation and camerawork, that they end up making the film seem disjointed at times. Despite these issues, Another Earth is definitely worth a watch, even if only for a glimpse into a fascinating concept which will have you thinking about this “other Earth” long after you’ve seen this film.

Movie Rating: 3/5

Reviewer: Goncalo Sousa
Release Date: 9TH December, 2011
Director:Mike Cahill
Cast:Brit Marling, William Mapother, Matthew-Lee Erlbach

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