Sold to Fox Searchlight off the back of great buzz at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, Another Earth is unfortunately a film that can’t stand up prestanding reputation, and fails to come good on what is an intriguing concept at its core.
After an apparent mirror of Earth appears in the night sky, Rhoda Williams, driving home on a rainy night, looks up to take in the remarkable phenomena, but after drinking early that evening to celebrate her acceptance into MIT, loses control of her vehicle, and slams into a waiting vehicle at the upcoming intersection.
With a young family on the receiving end of the unfortunate collision, only the father (Mapother) makes it out alive, and overwrought with guilt, and wanting to apologise for the harm she had caused, after serving her sentence, Rhoda impresses herself upon the still grieving John Burroughs.
A minor at the time of the accident, Rhoda’s identity was always kept hidden, and after losing her nerve at the very last minute, instead offering services to clean Burroughs’ house. Unaware of who she is, the pair soon grow close, although as the other Earth draws closer, a new clarity in Rhoda’s mind means she must in the end come clean, sure to rock each other’s live once again.
The idea for the film was conceived by co-writers Mike Cahill and Brit Marling as they speculated what it would be like to encounter one’s own self, but not once does this play a factor in or influence the story as on the whole, Another Earth proves massively underwhelming.
The whole idea of a mirror of Earth approaching our planet is entirely underplayed. In a way this is the idea; similarly to how Super 8 is a film about friendship with an alien creature running around in the background, Another Earth is a film about redemption and the bonds of a relationship, all the while, a second Earth just happens to be lurking in the background. In Super 8, however, the characters were interesting and you cared greatly for their plight, here, there’s nothing even to approach the same emotional involvement. Without the other Earth playing a key role in the story, what’s left is a generic tale of uninteresting characters trading fairly laboured dialogue. Another Earth falls in with every other bittersweet indie picture of redemption and righting wrongs, but it struggles to even stand up to them.
Though the cinematography is left lacking at times, everything from a directorial standpoint is generally OK, that you don’t believe in the central relationship, however, is laid equally at William Mapother’s feet as the lacking script. He never feels convincing as the broken man/talented musician, though opposite him, with a writing credit also to her name, Brit Marling might just be on her way to the top.
Such self-consciously indie films give themselves a license to explore, but Another Earth dares little. The only step outside of the standard, however, is for Mapother’s musician to play the saw (yes, saw), turning what should have been a moment of great emotion into the ludicrous.
Another Earth is an intimate picture about redemption, guilt and the loss of our loved ones, and yet without any warmth to the characters, chemi stry between the leads and a cold and oppressive aesthetic and narrative tone, it isn’t at all engaging, when it could have been one of the most remarkable indie films of the year.