Another Earth presents an interesting experiment; a second Earth suddenly appears in the sky. The mysterious planet is actually another copy of Earth, perhaps one in another universe. Why it suddenly became visible is left unexplained. However for a movie called Another Earth this film has very little to do with this said other Earth and more to do with what this second Earth means to a few individuals in our Earth. No surprise that a second Earth means a second chance to the protagonist Rhoda Williams (Brit Marling).
In the opening scene we learn that Rhoda Williams has just been accepted to a highly selective physics program in MIT. That same night while she was celebrating her achievement, the second Earth first appears in the news. While Rhoda is driving home, and after a few extra drinks, she gets distracted while hearing the news on the radio. Before she can even take a look out her window, another car veers into the road. The accident leaves a child dead, a father in a coma and sends Rhoda to prison. By the time Rhoda comes out of prison four years later she has lost everything. But the second Earth now appears larger than the moon in the sky.
What if Rhoda had not drank so much that night. What if Rhoda had crashed at her friends? What if Rhoda had not turned on that radio that instant? What if; what if; what if? Could these questions be perhaps answered if indeed that second Earth lies in a parallel universe where events turned out differently? Perhaps, and luckily for Rhoda a corporation is sponsoring a trip to this other Earth. Whoever wins an essay contest gets to join the adventure.
While writing her essay, Rhoda reflects over her life’s choices. Some were better than others. And later seeks out the father from the accident, John Burroughs (William Mapother), who has woken from his coma, while pretending to be a house cleaner. The relationship that builds between Rhoda and John is an interesting and in many ways the strongest point of the film. Another Earth basically uses the set up of there being a second Earth in the sky just so these two characters can come together. An interesting experiment, but I do not know what to think of it.
On one-hand movies about an essay that make one think on their lives choices are plentiful, generally the set up is somewhat less elaborate than a contest to win a trip to a parallel universe, a college essay suffices. Then again movies revolving around parallel universes and other planets, earthly or not, usually involve more extravaganza than just a life’s reflection. Another Earth takes the unusual path on both accounts, for that alone I commend writer/director/cinematographer Mike Cahill. The film premiered last Sundance and he certainly emerged as the new talent to follow, as will Brit Marling whose performance really breathes throughout the film. Half the scenes have little to no dialogue and without her they would also lack life. The film will mostly appeal to those who follow films like this Indy, mood-based, drama pieces about characters that exist outside the frequented road. For those who are looking for anything else, I suggest looking elsewhere; perhaps one of those Hollywood coming of age dramas about teens writing college essays or a Sci-Fi about parallel universes and big explosions. If you are one of those Another Earth is not what you likely expect.