Monday, 2 January 2012

Another Earth review.

In a year of sequels, reboots, remakes and prequels it is refreshing to get something that is quite unique, original and different, and even though parallel worlds have been on Dr Who for years, Another Earth is all three of those attributes previously mentioned.  Another Earth is an American independently produced film with a very intriguing premise but does the premise match the execution?

A planet is discovered in the sky, puzzlingly the planet has the exact same features as our own planet does, size, mass and the size and shape of the continents. People are amazed by the mystery planet in the sky. However one night, while a bit drunk, Rhoda Williams (Brit Marling) is driving home but her attention is attracted by the beautiful blue planet in the sky (dubbed as Earth 2), thus Rhoda does not notice that the car was drifting to the other side of the road head-on to another oncoming car (the car is stopped, rather unexplainably, at a zebra crossing). Rhoda crashes into this car killing a son and a mother, leaving the father alive but in a coma. Four years later Rhoda is released from prison and attempts to redeem herself for her felony.
Like Gareth Edwards’ 2010 film Monsters the Science Fiction aspects fall into the background allowing the character drama to move into the foreground. The character drama works remarkably well as it is a story that remains generally moving as Rhoda wrestles with her guilt at causing the death of a mother and a child. Rhoda attempts to improve the father’s life, even in the smallest way, but never gets the courage to apologise to him for causing the deaths of his family. There is an underlying tension, as the relationship grows between Rhoda and John Burroughs (William Mapother), to whether John will find out who this cleaning girl is. The two central performances are outstanding; especially Brit Marling (who turned down a job with Goldman Sachs to peruse acting) who plays a promising, talented high school student on track to a place in MIT but her bright future is shattered by a moment of recklessness and unforgivable stupidity. It is clear she deeply regrets her actions not for the effect on her but the effect that she has had on John Burrough’s life.  Her quest for redemption is powerful and one begins to engage with her and maybe you even begin to forgive her.
Like I said, similarly to Monsters, the Science Fiction elements take a back seat, the discovery of the identical planet is used as a back drop to the character drama but there is certainly a sense of mystery sounding the planet that mirrors our own.  The world asks questions debating the purpose and the safety of the planet but people remain wowed and spellbound by it as it becomes part of popular culture (TV shows, radio shows), and the viewer is also fascinated by the planet in the sky. Many questions are asked about the identical planet but very little are answered, this is, of course,  intentional as first time director Mike Cahill and fellow screenwriter Brit Marling (same person) allow the viewer to interpret the events in the film themselves.   While Another Earth does indeed contain some scientific plot holes the film is still rather intelligently written, the characters and their relationships are believable, well developed and engrossing.  Due to the appearance of the planet Earth 2 in the sky a competition is run, the winners of the competition get to be the first civilians to visit the twin planet. The competition asks one to write, in 500 words, why they should be selected as passengers to fly to Earth 2, Rhoda Williams enters this competition stating that she is felon thus the best candidate for the job (drawing a comparison to the era of exploration during the late 1400s and early 1500s). Rhoda wants a second chance and this is what the movie asks do people deserve a second chance even if they committed an act that is unforgiveable? Clearly Rhoda is not a horrible person, she probably has done nothing drastically wrong before her crime, and so is this worthy of forgiveness?  This is one of the questions Mike Cahill asks of us.

Like In Lars Von Trier’s Melancholia the world continues life normally with the planet in the sky (granted one has more sinister intentions), that sits there dominating the sky attract the eyes of those on Earth. Both the central characters battle depression (somewhat less investigated in Another Earth), one caused by guilt of her crime, the other, pessimism and family issues but however Rhoda Williams is by far a more likeable and sympathetic character. Melancholia will undoubtedly be the bigger, more popular and more successful film but that does not mean it is better, Another Earth may lack the visual wonder of Melancholia (Another Earth is still visually very impressive) but the human story of Another Earth is by far the more involving. Another Earth is a touching drama, a fascinating drama even when we are watching the two central characters bonding over a game on the Nintendo Wii. Another Earth works so well because it so touching, poignant and wonderfully written but also because new rising star Brit Marling, whose superb central performance is heartfelt and absorbing, really does a sterling job anchoring the film. Another Earth is the most underrated and underappreciated film of the year


  1. Great review, Myerla, I would like to give this a go. Hope it's as good as Monsters :D

  2. Very good review. Completely agree!

  3. Good review. I agree with most everything you said. I had Another Earth as one of my Top 10 films of 2011, although I have not written a review for it yet.