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Another Earth marketed itself as a indie sci-fi movie, but this movie is really a drama and a character study that has a sci-fi element in the background. But it is still an excellent movie to please people wanting something intelligential on DVD and Blu-ray this week.
On the day another planet that could support life is discovered in the Solar System, teenager Rhoda Williams (Brit Marling) kills a woman and her child while driving drunk. After four years in prison, Rhoda becomes depressed and works as a cleaner at a local high school. She tries to make amends with John Burroughs (William Mapother), the husband and father of the people she killed, but ends up lying and pretends to be a maid whom he hires. As they get close they debate the philosophy and ethics of the discovery of this mirror Earth and Rhoda expresses she’s willing to leave our Earth to start a new life.
Another Earth is mostly a movie about someone’s guilt and quest for redemption. In the wrong hands, this movie could have ended up being very melodramatic and over the top, but director Mark Cahill made sure this movie was a low-key affair. Cuts were kept to a minimum and he uses hand-held cameras. Some moments were very voyeuristic; Cahill zooms a little too much, giving Another Earth a slightly amateurish visual.
Another Earth was a dialogue-light movie, relying on the visuals and grounded performances to convey the characters’ turmoil and development. This is a major strength that gives the film a subtle tone. There is a striking juxtaposition between the constant image of Earth Two in the sky and the down-to-Earth nature of small town America. Added to this is a wonderful, simple score throughout the movie.
There are similarities to 2010’s Monsters, a low budget movie with a simple story that just happens to have a sci-fi element to it. The films are also similar in that Another Earth and Monsters look at the events after they happened and studies the impact they has on society. This movie takes the idea of a mirror Earth that is popular in sci-fi, cartoons and comics and sees how ordinary people would react and carry on with their normal lives.
Another Earth also attempts to be a very philosophical movie, examining the new reality that faces people, asking what would it be like to meet yourself, what would it be like on Earth Two, is going to Earth Two opening up a Pandora’s Box or is it a chance to expand our horizons? Scientist Dr. Richard Berendzen offers an occasional voiceover discussing the effects on society and on science, including a segment on inter-planetary politics, feeling very much like the chapter “Dr. Manhattan: Super-powers and the Superpowers” in the graphic novel Watchmen.
Directed by Mark Cahill
Written by Mark Cahill, Brit Marling
Starring: Brit Marling, William Mapother