Have you ever wondered about an alternate reality? About how things would have turned out if you had done something different along the way. Would you suffer the same fate, the same misfortune? In the haunting Sundance hit Another Earth, these questions are pondered, in wondering but also terrifying ways.
The story opens up on Rhoda (Brit Marling), a bright high-school senior celebrating her acceptance to MIT. Inebriated and on her way home from the party, she crashes her car into a minivan traveling the other way, instantly killing the family of a composer named John Burroughs (William Mapother). Ironically, she was distracted by a stunning sight, a mirror image of our own planet had appeared in the night sky.
Four years later, as the world continues to try to grasp the meaning of “Earth 2″ hovering in our sky, Rhoda is released from prison, her bright future all but a faint memory from the past. Destroyed and depressed by what she has done, she attempts to apologize to the survivor of the crash and dreams of going to this other Earth and meeting her twin counterpart. Is she living the same dreadful nightmare as she is? What would it be like to meet yourself?
Don’t be fooled by the science-fiction premise of Mike Cahill’s film. This micro-budget indie ($200K) is essentially a slow-burning redemption story that manages to be simultaneously very small in scope and yet huge in concept. The real story is this relationship between two alienated, broken souls and the movie could easily have done without all the sci-fi elements. Nonetheless, this other Earth adds an unsettling mood of eerie wonder and dread (the fear of doppelgangers) that really sets this film apart. More importantly, it’s a metaphor for the character’s inward journey.
Brit Marling, who also co-wrote and co-produced the film with Cahill, projects sadness and quiet intelligence like few seasoned actors can. For a first-time actress, she gives an impressively heartfelt and natural performance. If you ever wondered what the definition of soulful might be, she might just have captured the essence of that word here. While she was very little-known prior to this movie, I expect to see a lot more of her down the road. And Mapother (Lost) is intense, bringing grief and pain to his dark, wounded character who is still grieving his unbearable loss.
Another Earth poses a lot of questions that will linger with you long after its unsettling final shot. Speaking of which, the film ends on an abrupt note that has left many viewers riled up. I personally loved that the movie concludes on such a key development without any explanation. People are smart and can interpret that encounter for themselves.
There is something about the best science-fiction movies that keep you wondering, not about the laws of physics or the fantasy itself, but about the unexplored depths of the human condition. Another Earth is science-fiction at its best.
Watch the Trailer: