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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

Another Earth (review)

Another Earth

I like the concept: A mirror to our homeworld appears in the skies… and it appears that we all have doppelgangers on this other Earth. Neat-o, if entirely outlandish. What’s even more intriguing is that this isn’t a “let’s send a rocket to the other Earth and explore” sort of action film (though the planning for that is happening in the background) but a “let’s use this as an opportunity to reconsider our lives and what our other selves might have done differently” sort of deeply personal indie film. The problem is, screenwriters Brit Marling and Mike Cahill — she also stars; he also directs — don’t know where to take it beyond that initial premise. Rhoda Williams (Marling) was a teenager on course for MIT and greatness before she caused the terrible traffic accident that killed a woman and her small son and put her husband and his father, John Burroughs (William Mapother: Lost), into a coma. Years later, she’s just out of prison for the deed and he’s wallowing in grief, unable to resume his career as a composer, unable to live any sort of life at all. She goes to visit him, intending to apologize, but gets caught up in an unexpected friendship with him. As a minor when the accident occurred, her identity was kept from him, so he has no idea who she is… so you can see what sort of personal disaster this is barreling toward. The tediousness of the inevitable revelation is kept somewhat at bay by the duplicate Earth looming ever larger in the sky (good thing the law of gravity has been suspended and the proximity of the other planet isn’t ripping Earth apart!), with all the metaphysicality that entails, which ripples through the undercurrents of the delicately realized relationship Marling and Mapother weave for their characters. But I could never get over the nagging sense, all through the film, that I was still waiting for the story to begin — and then, just where the film ends is where it should have taken its first turn, not its stopping point. All the reasons for the science-fiction foundation for the story in the first place come at the point beyond which the film is willing to go.

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Another Earth (2011)
US/Can release: Jul 22 2011
UK/Ire release: Dec 9 2011

Flick Filosopher Real Rating: rated TAML: through a mirror lightly
MPAA: rated PG-13 for disturbing images, some sexuality, nudity and brief drug use
BBFC: rated 12A (contains moderate sex and one scene of bloody accident injury)

viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

If you’re tempted to post a comment that resembles anything on the film review comment bingo card, please reconsider.

  • Grant

    Further spoilers – you almost get it – Rhoda crashes the car moments after the planet first appears. At that moment the divergance between the two worlds begins. Thus, John has a chance that the accident did not happen. What Rhoda’s other self appearing at the end of the movie means is that the accident did happen by virtue of her moving essay on the other side. We know that John cannot have seen his family again simply because her other self made the trip based on an essay detailing the death of his family at her hand.

  • Whoa, you must be like totally psychic to know what I want!

    Could you perhaps explain why is so astoundingly original and brilliant about this movie? And what I’m clueless about?

  • Why?

  • Why don’t you explain the movie to us all poor simpletons who don’t understand it?

  • Susan Nguyen

    For those who are seeking a generic sci-fi movie, Mike Cahill’s Another Earth may leave you feeling disappointed; but for those who are looking for a thoughtful drama, full of mystery and emotions, than this American independent film is the perfect choice. Directed by Mike Cahill and co-written by Brit Marling, the concept for Another Earth was first developed by the idea of what would occur if someone were to encounter oneself. Produce in 2011, the movie stars Brit Marling and William Mapother as the leading protagonists. The reason why Another Earth is so intriguing is because of its mix genre between science fiction and drama. Mike Cahill has created a movie that uses sci-fi elements to draw out the complexity of human decisions and actions.

    The story begins with a young girl named Rhonda who is played by Brit Marling. Unaware of the consequences that it would bring, one night Rhonda decides to drive home drunk. News about another earth is announced over the radio and for a split second as Rhonda searches for this planet in the sky, she collides with another vehicle which causes the death of a mother and son, leaving the father, John Burroughs, in a coma state. Years later and still driven by the guilt of her actions, Rhonda eventually seeks out John Burroughs who is played by William Mapother, and is living in a heartrending state. She wants to admit to her action, but she loses her courage and lies. Unaware that Rhonda is the person who killed his family, an unusual relationship is formed between them. Their time is short however, as Rhonda is granted the chance to visit the second earth, giving her an opportunity to meet herself.

    As a small independent film with a small budget, the emotions of these characters were captured beautifully. The film uses hues of white, blue and grey to convey the feelings of regret and sadness, yet it complements the visuals of the second earth very well. Mark Cahill was highly inspired by the 1969 Apollo lunar landing, and it shows throughout the movie as the second earth is often depicted similarly to the moon. The relationship between both protagonists is also exceedingly similar to Graham Green’s novel “the Tenth Man”. Despite the fact that the movie ignores all scientific consequences of having two earths adjacent from one another, the sci-fi elements allows a unique look at human confrontation and it gives the plot a sense of mystery. Overall the movie was poetic, intelligent and well portrayed.

  • Oliver

    Wow, that is one long review. You basically got it summarized. Overall I found the movie to be more of a fantasy than a sci-fi film. I think people are disappointed by the movie because they expect more of a sci-fi film as well. Nice facts. I think your summary was a bit unnecessary … 

  • Troy

    (Spoiler)-I think The different Rhodas had different paths; for starters one went on the trip and the other didn’t.  I think they both won the essay, one for being a convict, the other for being an astronomer.  The clues I’m working from are I believe the essay is from the Rhoda from the other Earth where she was inspired by the dynamic Jupiter rather than the analogy to Columbus’ crew.  The other clue is the billionaire awarding the tickets mentioned that you can go either way, there is a fine line between being a criminal and a genius.  Then as I mentioned the fact that the convict Rhoda stayed behind while the genius Rhoda went on the trip.

  • Isobel_A

    I realise I am coming very late to this party, but I’m interested in knowing why you think a scientific impossibility (another Earth appearing in space next to our Earth, without the planets gravities etc destroying each other, with no explanation as to why) constitutes ‘the best science fiction’. Surely, it’s the definition of science fantasy, which you seem to be decrying?

  • Jim C

    The great thing is the fantastical sci-fi element is there for a very specific artistic reason. It’s not just thrown in as scenery. I think this is true of great philosophical sci-fi. But I wouldn’t characterize people’s expectations as science fantasy (which actually would be a fair characterization of this movie imo). I think it is rather more like some people are expecting the more typical techno-fiction, but also I think some people are disappointed for other reasons. I think this movie should be approached with a patient and absorbing, meditative and contemplative frame of mind, so it’s fair to warn people not to just watch this nilly willy but save it for that moment when they are ready.

    To people who think the movie should have started where it ended, I say please go write a story then, which is exactly the sort of thing that I think the creators of this film intended. The fact that this is your feeling is a testament to their achievement.

    This is a philosophical and psychological mystery and it is meant to get you thinking. It’s a question more than an answer, and that is totally on purpose.

  • Jim C

    I suspect appreciation of the metaphors in this film is one of the discerning differences between those who appreciate it greatly and those who do not. Most of the major conflicts are internal ones and everything that happens in the movie including the self-maiming old man are metaphors for internal goings on.

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