Directed by: Mike Cahill
Written by: Mike Cahill and Brit Marling
Starring: Brit Marling, William Mapother, and Jordan Baker
What would it be like if there were another Earth? Would the “you” on that planet be the same you on this planet? Would your life have been the same? These are all questions that the high concept film ANOTHER EARTH poses, but – sadly – never answers.
Rhoda Williams (Brit Marling) is a smart, pretty blond girl who has everything going for her in life. She’s just been accepted to MIT and is out celebrating with her friends. On the way home from the party, she’s distracted by a newsflash on the radio and winds up causing a horrific accident that claims the lives of two family members and leaves the third member, John Burroughs (William Mapother) in a coma. The newsflash our flawed protagonist was preoccupied with establishes the (sub)plot: Astronomers have found a second Earth hiding behind the sun, a duplicate reality to our own.
Rhoda spends the next four years in prison. Upon her release, she decides to enter a contest to go to “Earth 2″ and start over. She visits John – he does not realize who she is – but can’t get up the courage to apologize to him, so she lies about being a rep for a cleaning service to find a way into his life.
Though you see every plot twist coming from a mile away, the relationship story works on a certain level. What’s perplexing is that the film’s central idea and cool sci-fi and philosophical concepts (which are essentially what sucked me into the theater) are relegated to being secondary. Leaps of logic and sci-fi contrivances abound and the dots never really connect.
If there is a bright spot in ANOTHER EARTH, it’s actress and co-writer Brit Marling’s phenomenal performance. Even when the scenes lag, she is what keeps you tethered to the story. Her character drives the film and she has a powerful screen presence. However, putting William Mapother (LOST) as the romantic male lead is a bit of a casting misfire. Where he is supposed to be soft, there’s a twinge of the sinister instead. There’s a scene in which John takes Rhoda to an empty auditorium and instead of playing the saw (yes, you read that right), I totally thought he was going to hack her up into tiny pieces with it (he did not).
The thing that set me most on edge was the editing by the film’s director Mike Cahill, whose style doesn’t allow for the material to breathe properly. Shots that should be lingered on are only given seconds before cutting away, whereas other shots – particularly of our heroine walking at dusk – are endless. Cahill shoots his subjects in a documentary style (which is his cinematic background) that doesn’t work at all for this particular fiction piece (unlike DISTRICT 9, where it works).
The most depressing thing about ANOTHER EARTH is that the concept is so brilliant, but fails to be executed properly. I’m still interested in seeing the film it wanted to be. Where the film ends is where I would have preferred the movie began. Feeling more like RABBIT HOLE than MOON, ANOTHER EARTH is best left unexplored.
2.5 out of 5
ANOTHER EARTH played at The Los Angeles Film Festival on June 26. The film opens on July 20.