Another Earth

Another Earth | Film Review | Movie Review | SHELF HEROES

Contemplative science fiction film about regret, mistakes and redemption. Rhoda (Brit Marling), a bright young woman obsessed with astronomy, has just been accepted into MIT. After drinking and celebrating with her friends she unwisely decides to drive home and becomes distracted by a radio broadcast about the discovery of a new planet remarkably like our own. While peering out the car window to get a glimpse of it in the night sky, she slams into a car containing acclaimed composer John Burroughs (William Mapother) and his family. Released from a young offenders institution 4 years later – still under the looming presence of ‘Earth 2’ – Rhoda attempts to restart her life and atone for her mistakes.

This is a lo-fi indie affair charged with an ever-present melancholy and running as a 90 minute riff on the idea, "what would’ve happened if...", a thought that haunts us all from time to time; in this alternate reality it is literally hanging over Rhoda in the form of the vast ‘Earth 2’. This physical representation of an internal thought is an interesting conceit that sits subtly with the human drama, and lends an added accessibility to Rhoda’s emotions – possibly too literally, but the film’s confidence and originality are enough to keep you on side.

Shot in a hazy dreamlike quality, we are left feeling as displaced as Rhoda and John, both coming to terms with their lives, deviated from their expected paths – the film washing over us in a blue tinted sombre haze, days and weeks merging together and passing by. It effectively creates a consistent solemn aura that lingers long after the credits. Narratively there are few surprises and, after some reveals in the first half, it plays out as expected, but it’s through character and ideas that ‘Another Earth’ is most satisfying. Communicating an abstract thought in an uncomplicated way is no mean feat, and this is where science-fiction comes into its own as a genre. Marling is exceptional as the lead producing a natural, heart-felt performance, sharing a compelling awkward chemistry with the equally adept Mapother.

Created with next to no budget, the film manages to look striking – decent visual effects conjure up the ever-present planet and Rhoda’s journey is captured with some exquisite, memorable cinematography. Not without flaws, the plot takes a few diversions that sit uneasily with the rest of the picture, and our sympathies with Rhoda are never as strong as they might be – but as a thoughtful study of an everyday idea, it’s an unqualified success articulated with originality and ambition.

★★★★☆

[ 2011 — Dir: Mike Cahill — 92 mins — PG cert — IMDb ]

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