Posted September 22, 2011 by David Watson in Films
 
 

Another Earth


When 17-year-old Rhoda

When 17-year-old Rhoda (co-writer Brit Marling) learns she’s
been accepted to study astrophysics at MIT she celebrates by doing what any
teenager would; she goes out, she gets drunk, she dances, snogs someone and
generally has a good time.
Driving home drunk, she’s distracted by
the sudden, inexplicable appearance of a new planet in the night sky and, as
she cranes her head to look at it, slams into a family station wagon sending
talented composer and Yale music professor John (William Mapother) into a coma and killing outright his wife and
child.

Four years
pass and the new planet hangs fat and blue in our sky, visible day and night,
looking like a replica of our own Earth.
Rhoda, now 21 and on parole, gets out of prison and takes a job as a
cleaner at her old high school. Ignoring her parole officer’s suggestions and
encouragement that she should think about college or get a job more befitting
her intelligence and ability, Rhoda, still haunted by the lives she destroyed,
is intent on punishing herself; moving back in with her parents, turning her
old bedroom into a Spartan cell, scrubbing excrement and vomit from school
toilets as a penance and indulging in half-hearted suicide attempts. John meanwhile is out of his coma and
is a mess both literally and mentally. Hiding from the world in a slovenly,
dilapidated farmhouse, he’s become an alcoholic recluse, drinking his days and
nights away and living on Meals on Wheels.

Driven by
guilt, curiosity and a desire to atone in some way, Rhoda inserts herself into
John’s life, cleaning him up spiritually as well as physically. When contact is eventually made with
the new planet it proves to be a precise replica of our own in almost every way
that matters even down to its population who are our doppelgangers. Their world exactly mirrors ours except
in minor ways, different decisions on Earth 2 having led to different destinies
for our reflected selves. As the
scientists and philosophers debate the significance of Earth 2, Rhoda and John
enter into a tentative romantic relationship, two damaged husks finding some
measure of solace and rebirth in each other. Being a minor when she committed her crime, John is unaware
it was Rhoda who destroyed his life but she starts to find the burden of her
secret intolerable. Could Earth 2
offer a second chance…?

Typical, isn’t
it? You wait years for a film
about a rogue planet and it’s Earthly ramifications and then two come at
once. But while Lars von Trier’s interminable Melancholia slowly, so sloooooowly, disappeared up its own
maudlin røv (Danish for ARSE), Another Earth is a far more
metaphysical journey, a seamless blending of Kieslowski and Tarkovsky,
which uses its science fiction premise and draws upon quantum physics,
multiverse theory, semantic externalism and Hilary Putnam’s Twin Earth thought
experiment as a backdrop for what is a deeply soulful, intimate exploration of
grief, guilt, love and redemption.

With a
voiceover by astrophysicist Richard Berendzen, Another Earth is a small-scale tale full of big ideas; as much a
tender, halting love story as it is a meditation on the choices and paths our
lives can take. For want of a
nail, the kingdom was lost. The
mirror Earth that hangs over the characters represents not just the promise of
a second chance but the possibility that somewhere in time and space you never
needed it; you took a different path.
It’s the road not travelled, the promise of a better life somewhere in
the Universe, the chance to remake yourself, redeem yourself; whether that’s on
another planet or in the next street is immaterial. It represents hope.

Star of Lost and cousin of a better-known,
vertically-challenged Xenu-botherer, William Mapother is excellent as the
grieving, broken John giving an unpredictable performance of emotional rawness
while virtual unknown Brit Marling is fantastic as Rhoda. Gawky and awkward, a stranger not just
to the world but seemingly to her own skin, she gives a performance of grave
vulnerability and steely control, her Nordic beauty hidden for the most part by
dirty overalls and a wooly hat, her hesitant, hunched physicality suggesting a
wounded creature intent on protecting itself. Tight, low-key, subtle and controlled, she’s a revelation, a
talent we’re going to be seeing a lot more of.

Another Earth examines the
extraordinary through the lives of two ordinary, damaged individuals and finds
beauty, mystery and complexity. At
its core it asks the simplest and most profound questions: What if there was
another you? What would you say if
you met? When Rhoda is asked her
answer is flippant, sardonic: “Better luck next time,” but like all cynics
she’s a bruised romantic, desperate for another chance.

Intelligent,
compassionate, sympathetic and profound, Another
Earth
is a science fiction movie for people who don’t like science
fiction. This is the film The Tree Of Life should have been.


David Watson

 
David Watson is a screenwriter, journalist and 'manny' who, depending on time of day and alcohol intake could be described as a likeable misanthrope or a carnaptious bampot. He loves about 96% of you but there's at least 4% he'd definitely eat in the event of a plane crash. Email: david.watson@filmjuice.com