Another Earth (2011)

Another Earth (2011) – So speculative fiction (or “science” fiction as normal people call it) seems to usually just be an excuse for an action thriller. However, from time to time there is a movie with a more meditative view on something usually relegated to the stigmatized genre of sci fi. Another Earth is one such movie. As the title pretty much says, it’s about the discovery of a new planet that is identical to Earth. What’s more, when first contact is made it is established that everyone has a doppelgänger on this other Earth (uncreatively called Earth 2, though it is mentioned that the people of Earth 2 probably call us Earth 2 as well). Rather than focus on some dangerous mission to this second Earth (although one is repeatedly referenced as a somewhat important plot point), the movie focuses more on human drama and the existential questions raised by the idea that no, you are not unique in the universe.

The story focuses on Rhoda (Brit Marling), a young student just accepted to MIT, who drives home drunk one night. She gazes up at the duplicate planet just discovered in the sky… and plows into a car carrying a family of three. The father goes into a coma. The mother and son die. Rhoda does four years in prison. After she gets out she becomes a janitor at her old high school. She ends up visiting John (William Mapother), the no-longer-comatose father of the family she killed. He doesn’t know who she is (she was arrested at 17 and as a juvenile her records are sealed) and she gets a job cleaning his house. A Richard Branson-esque billionaire is funding an expedition to Earth 2 and taking submissions for gets to be on it. Rhoda enters an essay contest for a chance. She hears on television that the up-to-then-identical Earths reached some kind of divergence point upon their mutual discovery of each other. Since that corresponds with the night of the accident does that mean that Earth 2 Rhoda has not made the same horrible mistake?

The main strength of Another Earth is that it focuses on character and ideas instead of superficial action. The downside of this is that it is paced slower than hell. A meditative pace is not always a bad thing (it is in fact frequently a good thing) but Another Earth doesn’t quite pull it off. It’s still worth seeing. Brit Marling is great in the lead role and needs to be added to the growing list of talented up-and-coming actresses with a bright future. My gold standard for low-budget and intensely thought-provoking science fiction is still Shane Carruth’s Primer, and this film is nowhere near as smart as that one. What writer/director Mike Cahill does is make the other planet into not the driving plot force, but a possible solution for the more realistic human drama the film chooses to focus on. For all its shortcomings, Another Earth is the type of film I would like to see more of in the sci fi section of the video store*.


*(Figuratively speaking, since video stores aren’t really much of a thing anymore.)

One Response to “Another Earth (2011)”
  1. Michelle says:

    I saw Another Earth and I agree – good movie.
    Amazing scene with a guy playing a saw – how many movies have that?! This scene is on the composer’s website if you want to see/hear it again.

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