Another Earth (2011)
Director: Mike Cahill
Cast: Brit Marling, William Mapother, Matthew-Lee Erlbach
Synopsis: On the night of the discovery of a duplicate Earth in the Solar system, an ambitious young student and an accomplished composer cross paths in a tragic accident.
Another Earth is one of those movies that, on paper, really shouldn’t work but which, on the screen, somehow manage to overcome their deficiencies to deliver an interesting viewing experience. It’s not without its flaws, some of which can be safely overlooked – the sudden appearance of a ’mirror’ earth close enough to play havoc with our own earth’s gravity – while others, such as the increasingly unlikely turn of events towards the end of the film, can’t be brushed aside so easily.
Brit Marling (who also co-wrote with director Mike Cahill) plays Rhoda, a promising young student whose future is irrevocably altered when the car she’s driving while under the influence ploughs into another car in which music composer John Burroughs (William Mapother) is sitting with his pregnant wife and young son. Burroughs’ family is wiped out, and he is left in a coma. All this takes place on the same day that a duplicate earth is discovered.
Four years later, as the prospect of making contact with Earth 2 draws ever nearer, Rhoda is released from prison. She visits the house in which Burroughs, having emerged from the coma, spends his days drinking and watching TV, with the intention of apologising, but loses her nerve and pretends she’s touting for business for a home-cleaning company. Burroughs takes her up on the offer of a free trial, and a tentative relationship is slowly established.
While it’s not a particularly original idea, it’s told with a distinctive voice and a raw beauty. The introspection of its lead characters means there isn’t a great deal going on in front of our eyes, but a huge amount going on behind theirs, which is conveyed largely through looks and expressions. Marling gives a powerful performance as the high-spirited girl en-route to MIT who emerges from prison as a withdrawn, emotionally damaged shadow of her former self, and subtly captures the tell-tale signs of someone operating on the tattered fringes of their emotions. The film’s sombre tone is enhanced by a potent soundtrack.
Another Earth provides plenty of food for thought, but it’s impossible to shake off the lingering suspicion that Cahill and Marling didn’t quite possess the necessary insight to follow through all the strands to their natural conclusions – or even to take them in the right direction…