It’s almost inevitable that when casual movie fans think of the science fiction genre they think of spaceships and time travel and big ideas framed by big technological wonders. Thankfully, writers and directors don’t allow themselves to be pigeonholed in such a way and so we get movies from the big and bombastic end of the spectrum and movies that convey big ideas with a minimum of fuss and a small budget (such as this movie and the excellent Primer).
Another Earth revolves around ideas of chance, pain and hope. It all begins when tragedy strikes on the night that a planet is discovered in very close proximity to Earth that would appear to be a mirror planet, hence the title. We then move forward four years and catch up again with those who were so terribly affected on that night. Rhoda (Brit Marling) knows that not only has her life been irrevocably changed but that she is also responsible for completely changing the life of John (William Mapother) and she spends a lot of time considering this, wanting somehow to try and make some small gesture of penance that might help, for the benefit of John but mostly for the benefit of herself. Meanwhile, that other planet hangs in the sky with a potential chance for a fresh start.
A strong movie almost layered from beginning to end with melancholy, Another Earth uses its premise to look at the human condition and consider possibilities of the decisions that we make in life. Director Mike Cahill (who co-wrote the movie with star Marling) sets up a fragile house of cards that viewers don’t really want to see come tumbling down and the performances from Marling and Mapother help to ground the film completely (Marling was completely new to me but I must say that Mapother, who I have enjoyed in a number of small roles, was a revelation here, in what may turn out to be his finest hour).
The script is both smart and loaded with emotion. Almost every scene can provide you with a number of conflicting feelings and it’s this complexity and ability to somehow look right into the cores of the two main characters that makes Another Earth such a satisfying, mature movie to be enjoyed and mulled over. As for the science fiction element, my discussion of the movie may have you thinking that it’s just a background for the main events. That’s ever so slightly true but it’s just as equally false – the film doesn’t SEEM to focus on that mirror Earth but as things move towards the finale you start to realise, if you had ever forgotten, that the planet is the biggest thing in the lives of those onscreen, whether they know it or admit to it or not.
Another Earth has been garnering a lot of praise since it first appeared last year and I’m happy to go along with the majority on this one. I also think that it’s yet another of the movies that I’ve watched recently that can only go up in my estimation with future viewings.
DIRECTOR: MIKE CAHILL
WRITER: MIKE CAHILL, BRIT MARLING
STARS: BRIT MARLING, WILLIAM MAPOTHER, MATTHEW-LEE ERLBACH, JORDAN BAKER, FLINT BEVERAGE, ROBIN TAYLOR
RUNTIME: 92 MINS APPROX