Another Earth

Another Earth


Reviewed by: Paul Griffiths

Another Earth is a small indie sci-fi creeper hit from writer/director Mike Cahill and writer/star Brit Marling. Lo-fi and low budget, it knows exactly where it’s going and is not afraid to treat you with intelligence along the way.

Rhoda (Marling) is a care-free student gearing up for MIT, when a tragic accident scores her life across that of composer family man John (William Mapother). At the same time, a mysterious planet is discovered emerging from the far side of the sun. Four years later, a guilt-ridden and near-mute Rhoda is released from prison to see that not only has the new orb moved much closer to our own, it appears to be an extraordinary replica. An inhabited and developed mirror image, a second Earth.

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Searching for some kind of remedial meaning in her life, Rhoda is drawn to the similarly stricken John and gradually they falter towards an awkward symbiosis. In the background, the world’s media, thinkers and average Joes ponder the other Earth and the possibilities it might present. Are they living the same lives that we are? If you met yourself, what would you say? Has your other made different choices and does this now bring new or second chances for you?

The low-budget indie look, personal scale and sci-fi context reminded me of Shane Carruth’s Primer (both films have won Sundance’s Alfred P Sloan prize), but Another Earth strikes very different, warmer tones. After a crunching start and that nimble time step, there’s a little wobble and then Cahill’s piece sets its pace and measures its steps confidently. He forefronts the personal drama throughout so that the big ideas (dutifully checking off Asimov’s Foundation) only play out around and add to the small story, creating a close, thoughtful and unexpectedly moving film.

Marling and Mapother mould rounded, brittle characters. Their intimate performances, especially the often excellent and silent Marling, compel us through and help quell any creeping sense of implausibility. Go with the set up and the second Earth, often seen looming over them in the sky, lordly or beneficent, cannot help but focus on and presage their journeys. Maybe this would make an intriguing double-bill with Lars von Trier's Melancholia. Perhaps watch this second, though, it’s very much it’s own film, with a more optimistic opinion of human nature.

Cahill, also working as cameraman and editor, draws us in with simple yet memorable visuals that belie his often guerrilla style shooting with just a sound recordist at his side. At times he is cinéma vérité, roving up close and personal with his actors, at others more distanced and measured. He steers towards a much- debated final minute that satisfyingly wrong-foots us, leaving us answering Rhoda’s personal and epic questions ourselves. Coupled with his clear aversion to both unnecessary dialogue and spoon-feeding the viewer, Cahill’s undoubtedly a talent to look out for again in some future, somewhere.

Reviewed on: 02 Oct 2011
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On the eve of the discovery of a duplicate Earth, a tragedy irrevocably alters the lives of two strangers.
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Director: Mike Cahill

Writer: Mike Cahill, Brit Marling

Starring: William Mapother, Brit Marling, Jordan Baker, Ana Kayne, Meggan Lennon, Diane Ciesla, Matthew-Lee Erlbach, Niecy Cerise

Year: 2010

Runtime: 92 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: US

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