Another Earth (2011)

Drama, Sci-Fi
Brit Marling, William Mapother, Matthew-Lee Erlbach, DJ Flava
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.
  • Fox Searchlight Company:
  • PG-13 Rated:
  • IMDB link IMDB:
  • 12 Oct 2011 Released:
  • 29 Nov 2011 DVD Release:
  • $1.3M Box office:

All subtitles:

Trailer:

Deep Introspection Joins with Otherwordly Exploration9/10
Another Earth contains both an outward looking expansionist grand vision and an inward focused deep introspection. First, the external and gargantuan stimulus is that another planet appears in the sky. At first, it's just a speck like any other planet or distant star. Then it keeps coming closer is soon apparently our same planet dubbed Earth II. The internal and emotionally scarred center of the film, however, is Rhoda (Brit Marling) who is just released from prison four years later after being convicted of vehicular manslaughter. As a 17 year old girl who just got accepted to MIT, she drove drunk, hit a car with a family in it, and killed the pregnant wife and five year old boy. The husband, William Mapother, went into a short coma.

To avoid human contact and most forms of communication, Rhoda opts for janitorial work upon release. Her family wants her to resume her life where she left off but her psyche will not allow that. So begins a deeply philosophical exploration on regret, guilt, forms of forgiveness, and compassion all while a new, mirror-imaged planet is coming closer and closer. Did Rhoda commit the same mistake on Earth II? Is that family torn apart or still together on that new planet? These and a host of other theories and possibilities are tossed around for the audience concerning not only a mirror planet, but about past events and moving forward.

In real life, Brit Marling graduated from Georgetown with and economics degree and instead of pursuing a banking career with Goldman Sachs (an offer she turned down) took off for Hollywood. She was only offered smaller roles in cheap horror flicks. So instead of demeaning herself in garbage like that, she sat down with the eventual director, Mike Cahill, and wrote her own script. Brilliant move. It was a much harder road to travel to write her own script and then get it picked up by Fox Searchlight who bought the distribution rights at Sundance, but she pulled it off. It really is a breath of fresh air to see a film like this, learn its back story, and become immersed in it as opposed to whatever the most recent superhero movie is.
This Me or That Me?7/10
Greetings again from the darkness. An award winning film at Sundance, this one seems to carry the same polarizing effect that "Tree of Life" does. The reviews and comments have been discordant and contentious. After sitting through a Q&A with Mike Cahill (co-writer, director) and Brit Marling (co-writer, star) I am guessing they are taking great pride in the love/hate responses. Their film was designed to take you deep ... make you think and self-analyze. This is not a fluffy Owen Wilson rom-com. Explaining what it is, well, that's a challenge.

The story begins with Rhoda (Brit Marling) out for a night of partying. We learn she has been accepted to M.I.T. and that she is quite the space and astronomy lover. Her very poor decision to drive home after drinking results in a horrific accident that changes her life and that of a young family. At the same time, scientists discover "another Earth" has been hiding on the other side of the sun. Flash forward four years as Rhoda is released from prison.

She is a broken spirit whose bright future has been dashed. She tracks down the man who survived the crash she caused and has every intention of apologizing. Instead, she cleans his house. She finds John (William Mapother) has dropped out of society and found numbness in the bottle.

I won't say more about the story because it is really something to watch unfold. What I will say is that I found the advertisements to be somewhat misleading. This is not a sci-fi film per se. Sure the second earth brings about numerous questions concerning the "other" us. What would we say? How would we react? Have I done better there than here? But that is actually an underlying element to this story ... always present in our thoughts and those of Rhoda. Instead, this film is a psychological drama. And a dark one at that.

You will recognize William Mapother (The Grudge, Lost), who plays John. He has a regular guy look to him and stretches well from happiness to depression to, once again, showing a spark. Brit Marling is one you don't know, but will soon enough. She is an amazing presence on screen and avoids the Hollywood acting crutches. She plays Rhoda as the damaged, confused creature she is in the story. Very well done.

A couple of other interesting notes include Kumar Pallana (The Royal Tenenbaums)as Purdeep. With minimal screen time, his character provides Rhoda with a lesson she needs. There is also a scene where John plays a saw as a musical instrument. The sound is amazing and the music is actually from Natalia Paruz, who is knows as the "saw lady". Other music in the film is outstanding and courtesy of Fall on Your Sword. Very unique, but a perfect fit for the film.
A quietly powerful work of art9/10
""O wad some Power the gift tae gie us, to see oursels as ithers see us!" – Robert Burns

Beginning as a blue speck in the far distant horizon, in four years a new planet resembling Earth has moved into our solar system, creating a hovering phantom-like globe in the sky that puzzles scientists and laymen alike, but brings a feeling of wonder to the night sky. Winner of the Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film and the Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival, Mike Cahill's low-budget film, Another Earth, is a quietly beautiful meditation on guilt, redemption, and second chances. Though it has some implausible elements, it is so skillfully written and performed that these elements seem irrelevant. Cahill demonstrates that science fiction movies do not have to have blaring music, unending frenzy, CGI effects, or ugly and violent monsters to successfully capture our imagination.

The premise of the film is that the new planet is an exact mirror of the Earth, containing a duplicate version of ourselves who mirror our earthly circumstances. Cahill's main focus, however, is not the new planet but the attachment between two damaged individuals who begin to bring each other back to life after a devastating incident that forever scarred their lives. As the film opens, Rhoda Williams (Brit Marling), a bright 17-year old, unsteady after a night of celebrating her acceptance into MIT, drives her car through a red light, putting composer John Burroughs (William Mapother) in a coma and killing his pregnant wife and their young son.

The film then jumps ahead four years when the still guilt-ridden and morose Rhoda is released from prison and tries to set her life in order, moving back with her parents Kim (Jordan Baker) and Robert (Flint Beverage), and her brother Jeff (Robin Taylor). Though she had planned on studying Astrophysics, the only job she can now get is working as a high school janitor, a job where she keeps to herself without much interaction with others. When she sees John placing a toy robot at the site of the accident, on a whim she goes to his house pretending to be a maid offering a free trial for a cleaning service oddly called "Maid in Heaven."

In the back of her mind, however, is finding a way to release her inner torment. Fascinated with this sullen but obviously highly intelligent woman, John takes her up on her offer and asks her to come back each week to clean his house. At first uncommunicative both verbally and emotionally, the two alienated people slowly begin opening up to each other a little bit more each week. Though Rhoda eventually plans to tell John that she was responsible for the accident that killed his family, their visits seem to bring them to a new awakening of what is possible in their life, and she repeatedly postpones her confession.

After listening to TV broadcasts talking constantly about the possibility that your identical twin on Earth 2 might be a happier and more satisfied version of you, Rhoda enters a contest to become the first voyager to visit the other Earth. Astonishingly, she wins first prize after a heart rendering essay describing the reasons she wants to go. At first, pleading with her not to go through with it, John's attitude is changed drastically after she reveals her complicity in the fatal accident, a scene that leads to a startling and unpredictable conclusion.

Supported by the ethereal sounds of the group "Fall on Your Sword," Another Earth engenders powerful performances that deserve recognition at awards time. Marling, who also co-wrote the film, gives an intense and moving performance that brings her character fully to life. Though the film misses an important teachable moment near the end, it is a quietly powerful work of art that suggests that truth lays more in inner than in outer space, and that the biggest world to conquer is the one that is right before our eyes. As author Marcel Proust put it, "The real voyage of discovery lies in not seeing new landscapes but in having new eyes."
Rather beautiful and sad8/10
I went to the cinema on the spur of the moment, I had a couple of hours to kill. I scanned the billboard for anything that might seem vaguely interesting - "Another Earth" sounded science fiction-y so I bought my ticket and went in.

It's important I explain this for two reasons: first because I saw this movie "tabula rasa", having not seen trailers, read reviews or having any idea what it was about. Secondly it became evident from the bad- tempered muttering in the back I wasn't the only one to have done this.

At first I struggled with the concept, but I kept an open mind and a very different movie to the one I thought I would see developed, and was actually quite well done. After about 20 minutes I was ready to get up and leave, but giving it time paid back dividends, by the last half-hour I had become too involved to consider leaving.

The story is a slow burner that grips you incrementally, and while the occasionally grainy or out of focus shots give you the strong impression this was made on a shoestring, that is no reason to hold anything against it. Having seen the high budget yawn-fest "Transformers" I can actually say that given the current state of big budget science fiction this is a refreshing, if a bit left-field approach to the genre.

Evidently my companion viewers in the cinema, a small group of guys, were not getting as much out of the deeply troubled love story that forms the basis of the plot, and they made their discontent very audible to my irritation.

In brief, not a film for everyone, but if you're in the mood for an introspective slow-burner and you've got the patience for it, this film will prove a rewarding experience
Suspend disbelief, and love this movie9/10
I am a psychiatrist and psychotherapist who can tell a hawk from a handsaw, and there is a wonderful handsaw in this movie. So, I feel qualified to tell you it is safe to see this movie as it is, without worrying about details like gravity. Do not allow unimaginative naysayers to keep you from enjoying this gem. I mean, we all can enjoy vampire and zombie movies, right? Is any movie any better than "Let the Right One In"? I saw this movie last night in Brookline Mass at a Q&A preview, with director, writers, and an actor -- all combined in two lovely people. No one in our sophisticated audience that included a CETI scientist cared enough about the "laws of physics" problems to mention them in the question period. All we cared about were the endearing characters, the music both acoustic and visual, the plot developments, the shocking climaxes, the compelling emotional plausibility.

The movie is not about anything as terrestrial as gravity. In the world of this movie, something has happened to upset some kind of cosmic symmetry, and the other earth has appeared from a parallel universe. I do wish some character or other had dispelled the physics with "I don't know why our orbits are not affected". But, the metaphor works as a way to discuss looking at oneself. It really does not matter. The acting is perfect, the camera-work perfectly beautiful, the plot deeply affecting with wonderful surprises.