A contemplation on the mistakes we make and how we pay for those transgressions. Our chronicle concerns a bright 17-year-old astrophysics student who has been accepted into MIT. Upon leaving a party one night, she gets into a serious collision with another car. Shaken, she is able to walk away, but the 3 passengers in the other car are not so lucky. Sent to prison for vehicular manslaughter, she is released 4 years later. Racked with guilt she seeks out the sole surviving man whose life she shattered in that terrible accident.
The script also develops a fantasy element into the story with the discovery of an identical planet Earth which sustains life forms that mirror our own. In spite of the futuristic development, Another Earth is an ultra low-budget indie drama much in the same manner as Pi, Primer or Moon. This raises the possibilities of exploration and meeting our second selves. But it really isn’t a sci-fi film per se. That’s merely the framework employed as a device to explore ideas. Save for a few images of Earth 2 in the sky, there is little in the way of special effects. The budget was reportedly so low, the production couldn’t even justify purchasing a complete Nintendo Wii system. In the scene where the two protagonists are playing its version of boxing, only the controllers were used. They were not actually attached to anything.
Another Earth’s most affecting moments involve young adult Rhoda and her relationship to the stranger, a husband and father, whose existence is forever changed by her. John Burroughs is a broken shell of a man and Rhoda’s remorse compels her to visit him without revealing who she is. You see as a minor, her true identity was shielded from the public and him. Her effort to make amends is highlighted by many quietly acted intimate conversations. The pace is extremely deliberate, but actress Brit Marling gives a most impressive performance. Beautiful, likable and natural, she has all the qualities of a star. Marling furthermore co-wrote and co-produced the feature with her college friend, Mike Cahill who directs. Her interaction with actor William Mapother as a renowned composer who suffers the tragedy, is very touching. They have genuine chemistry, despite the fact that Mapother’s creepiness is better suited to villainous parts. There’s actor Kumar Pallana’s stereotypical role as a blind and later deaf, janitor as well. (The actor has previously played janitors in The Royal Tenenbaums and The Terminal) Unfortunately, his corny, poorly developed character is cringe inducing.
It’s hard to get past the notion that this is just a redemptive fable much like hundreds of others. The pacing is so lethargic, the action comes off as rather dreary. The events are dark and somber in tone. At times the drama becomes so understated that the plot feels skeletal. Although I’ll admit the bare aesthetic does support the story’s stripped down, confessional nature. What you’re honestly left with is a poignant tale of how one woman faces her earthly sins. However, the ending manages to address the narrative’s sci-fi aspect and it cleverly concludes the film on a high note.