It is with great anticipation that I popped “Another Earth” into my DVD player, having eagerly snatched it up from Wild & Woolly Video the day of its release. This low-budget film, which stars Louisville native William Mapother (Ethan Rom from “Lost”), has garnered some interest among fans of the indie circuit after premiering at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.
The film opens with Rhoda Williams (played by the film’s co-writer Brit Marling) celebrating her acceptance to MIT. This is also the night of the discovery of what will come to be known as Earth 2: a new planet nearby which perfectly mirrors our own. Driving home intoxicated, she sees it out the window of her car, and, distracted, slams into another car, killing the woman and child inside and leaving the man, John Burroughs (Mapother) in a coma.
Four years later, Rhoda is wracked with guilt over her crime, and Burroughs lives as a slob in despair. Meanwhile, an essay contest is being held offering one lucky civilian the chance to travel on the first flight to Earth 2.
The nature of Earth 2 is not known; will those who travel there find doubles of themselves? To quote from the film: “Could we even recognize ourselves, and if we did, would we know ourselves? What would we say to ourselves? What would we learn from ourselves? What would we really like to see if we could stand outside ourselves and look at us?”
Marling turns in a brilliant performance as the girl desperate for redemption and hoping for the possibility of a second chance. She moves slowly and deliberately; her very manner suggests constant dejection. Mapother is her perfect foil as the once-great composer/professor, now filled with apathy towards his life which no longer has meaning, and trying to find some sort of contented balance. (There is a particularly moving scene where he attempts to be productive; after working on some music and trying to fix up his house, he comes back in and sinks his head into his hands, clearly overwhelmed as he moans, “I tried too much.”)
The pacing is slow and deliberate, emulating the darkness and despair felt by our characters. This is greatly helped by the gorgeous piano- and string-heavy score which lends a further depth and heaviness to the action.
The film does require a significant suspension of disbelief. Certain questions remain: why aren’t the scientists trying harder to discover how this came to be? Why hasn’t the government launched a more thorough investigation than what we see? Above all: how has the incredibly close planet not affected the tides? However, it should be remembered that the science-fiction scenario is a vehicle to explore the themes of regret, redemption, and isolation, and it is more important to pay attention to the story than any plot holes.
“Another Earth” is by far the best film I have seen this year. I give it an enthusiastic two thumbs up, as well as both big toes.
The movie trailer can be found here.
Graphic from the film's Facebook page