Prior to the release of Another Earth, NASA confirmed the existence of an Earth-like twin planet which is six hundred light years away. So it is by strange coincidence that this discovery and the release of Mike Cahill’s film would occur in the same week. Months have passed since Lars von Trier’s stunning apocalyptic Melancholia which dealt with depression and the encounter of an unknown planet, so what does Another Earth bring to the table that we haven’t seen before?
On the night of the discovery of a duplicate planet in the solar system, Rhoda Williams (Brit Marling) is an ambitious young student who gazes upon “Earth 2″ which leads to a car accident killing the wife and child of accomplished composer John Burroughs (William Mapother). Four years following this tragic ordeal, Rhoda tries to make amends with the damaged man, whilst the secrets of Earth 2 are revealed.
Just as Melancholia was the sci-fi hit of Cannes, Another Earth was the sci-fi hit at Sundance and like von Trier’s film, the planet is very much the MacGuffin that drives the human drama which is the centre of the film. The plot primarily focuses on Rhoda who, following the tragic accident, has hit dead end in her life as she is no longer an ambitious girl but is now in a depressed manner and is hired as a cleaner at her old high school. As she encounters the former composer whose life is in ruins, she hopes to find redemption when she becomes a cleaner for his house without truly revealing herself.
Although there are sequences that discuss the theories of Earth 2, including the reveal of another “you” living within this duplicate planet, director Cahill and co-writer/star Brit Marling are more fascinated with the unlikely pairing which starts off awkwardly but with the promise of hope. Both Marling and William Mapother are phenomenal in their own way, such as the latter who is like a ticking bomb as his anger might burst at any moment.
Nearly in every frame, Brit Marling is an enchanting presence as, although she rarely says much, her face alone has a thousand meanings such as guilt, depression and wonder. Within the subplot of the film, there is a blind Indian janitor who understands the pain that Rhoda is going through, despite the loss of his eyesight. As the subplot progresses, the more whimsical it gets which seemed left-field to the harsh reality of the central drama.
Clearly made on a shoestring budget, the director is brilliant at crafting such remarkable imagery, of which mostly features the other Earth that is truly one of the three main characters along with Rhoda and John. As the human drama becomes more intense, the planet plays a bigger part as the “science-fiction” theories might be true, and without spoiling anything, the Twilight Zone-ish ending is one hell of a sucker punch.
Like last year’s Monsters, the human interactions are so engaging that the sci-fi element feels secondary and yet when the supposed genre gets more involved, Another Earth succeeds in full circle.
DIRECTOR: MIKE CAHILL
SCREENWRITERS: BRIT MARLING, MIKE CAHILL
STARRING: BRIT MARLING, WILLIAM MAPOTHER, MATTHEW-LEE ERLBACH
RUNTIME: 92 MINS