Another Earth (12A)

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Review byIsabel Stevens07/12/2011

Four our of Five stars
Running time: 92 mins

A breakout hit from Sundance, Mike Cahill’s ambitious debut uses the extraordinary astronomical spectacle at its centre as a means to explore the earthly preoccupations of his two drifting, grieving protagonists; but importantly, he also doesn’t shy away from asking big questions.

What’s it all about?
Once an intelligent MIT-bound student with her life ahead of her, twenty-something Rhonda (Brit Marling) is now a withdrawn high school janitor who has spent the last four years in jail for causing a fatal car accident whilst drink driving; distracted by the spectacle of a newly-discovered mysterious replica of Earth hanging in the sky, she crashed into another car, killing a mother and child inside.

The sole survivor of the accident is ex-music professor John Burroughs (William Mapother), who leads a similarly reclusive life, mourning the loss of his wife and son. A failed attempt at apologising for her actions ends with Rhonda offering her cleaning services to the unknowing Burroughs. As the implications of a second Earth are debated all around them, the two gradually develop an emotional but precarious bond.

The Good
A beautiful, looming planet with lost souls in its shadow is the premise of Lars von Trier’s similarly sci-fi-tinged Melancholia, but in Mike Cahill’s debut, the planet (Earth 2) offers not doom, but the hope of a better alternative life. It’s subtly but spectacularly realised by Cahill (the director putting his background in nature documentary to good use) as an ethereal presence, hovering just by the moon.

As the despondent outcast bewitched by the planet, newcomer Brit Marling (who also co-wrote and co-produced the film) carries the action with an utterly natural performance. Cleaning might not be the subtlest of metaphors for a redemption-seeker but Cahill does, to his credit, devote a lot of attention to her scrubbing Burrough’s dilapidated home and the school’s graffiti-scrawled walls. Observations of a world consumed by fear and wonder - warning placards and pleas to the inhabitants of Earth 2 writ large on tarmac – are playfully included in the background, and along with a muted palette and moody visuals, contribute to the film’s idiosyncratic, sombre atmosphere.

The Bad
The central relationship between Rhonda and Burroughs isn’t always convincing and does err on the side of predictable at times. While it’s refreshing to see a film with intellectual aspirations, Another Earth does occasionally suffer from some overwrought and undercooked philosophising, particularly in those scenes where a TV commentator-style voiceover interrupts the drama with some unnecessary theorising.

Worth Seeing?
Another Earth is an imaginative and adventurous indie sci-fi with lofty ambitions that far outstrip its meagre budget.

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Another Earth (12A)
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Content updated: 26/09/2015 06:48

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